The Irish are a nation of storytellers. Our stories are embedded in us, and in our landscape. Tales and Trails podcast is a brand new and immersive audio experience that invites you to walk the Irish countryside with the nation’s most interesting people.
On this episode, we walked the Sheep’s Head Lighthouse Loop, County Cork (Find the full trail guide here).
Our guest is Irish Olympian boxer and world champion Andy Lee. From humble beginnings, Andy has gone on to reach the highest success in his chosen field but maintained a grounded attitude to life.
In this episode, Andy walked the Sheep’s Head Lighthouse Loop in County Cork on Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way, a stunning coastal trail that provides breath-taking cliff walks and spectacular 360 views. Located just north of the Mizen Peninsula, this walk offers a unique view South to Mizen Head and North to Bear Island.
Andy talks about finding boxing when he moved to Ireland from London as a teenager.
“It seemed like a natural progression that if I kept winning fights, I’d eventually become world champion. But, at times, it doesn’t always work out that way.
“I was always winning as a boxer. I just thought I’d do it to a certain age and then pack it in when something else happened.
“I was born in London to an Irish family, and we moved back to Limerick when I was 14. I went from London, where there was an awful lot going on, to rural County Limerick. So, there wasn’t a lot going on, and the only social outlet I really had was boxing.
“When I was about 17, I realised that this was something I could be really good at.
“So, I was always winning and eventually became part of the national team. I dedicated myself to it. I remember making a conscious decision to commit to this.
“Not long after that, I won a silver medal at the world championships, and then Emanuel Stuart, who was a legend in boxing, got in touch with me.
“I thought that was actually a joke. I thought someone was winding me up. It’s the equivalent of Alex Ferguson ringing a young lad from Limerick and asking him to go play for Man United.
“He said he’d train me, manage me, and that I’d be a world champion.
“So, it was huge. At that point in Ireland, there weren’t many professional boxers. It would be very rare that someone would go professional. They’d usually stay in the amateur system.
“I went to Cuba in 2002 for the world championships. I had beaten one of his American fighters. He was the number one in America and he was sponsored by Emanuel Steward. And then suddenly, he gets beaten. Emanuel asked who beat him and he said it was some tall skinny kid from Ireland.
“I was thrilled, but the dream and the reality are never really the same. I stuck to the Olympics, and then I said we’ll talk after that. I stayed amateur because I knew I could win a medal at the next Olympics.”
For Andy’s full story, recorded live on the Sheep's Head Loop, County Cork, listen to the full episode below:
For spectacular sights, invigorating sensations and unforgettable experiences, make your next short break a walking break on the Wild Atlantic Way. Walking makes your break.
For more information or to plan your walking break on the Wild Atlantic Way, visit the Tales and Trails hub here.