‘The better I got, the more I wanted to be like Katie Taylor’ - now Daina Moorehouse is talk of the town as Olympics loom

Bray woman following in famous footsteps ahead of Paris 2024 tilt

Daina Moorehouse secured her place on the Irish team bound for Paris at the third time of asking. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Daina Moorehouse secured her place on the Irish team bound for Paris at the third time of asking. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

IT’S funny how certain moments leave a mark.

Even though big brother Michael was already doing his own thing between the ropes, Daina Moorehouse had zero interest. None. She played a bit of football, knocked about with her mates, went to school – all the things most 10-year-olds do.

Then, slowly but surely, and perhaps inevitably, the Katie buzz began to seep in. From the same town, Bray, Moorehouse knew the name and little more. When the 2012 Olympic Games came around though, all the parts were beginning to join together on a road that would lead her, 12 years later, along a similar path.

“We were away in Portugal on a family holiday, watching in an Irish bar when Katie won gold - it was packed, absolutely jammers.

“I didn’t even box then, it wasn’t until the year after that I started. Because Michael boxed, I was pretty much forced up to the club at first.

“I hated it, I was always crying when I sparred, but I stuck at it for a while and when I actually started winning. I said maybe I can take this a bit more seriously.

“Then, the better I got the more I wanted to be like Katie Taylor…. every young girl boxing wanted to be like Katie Taylor.”

Moorehouse had been boxing for three years before she won a first Irish title in 2015. Then gold followed at the European Junior Championships two years later, then another at the 2018 European youths in Italy.

Any ‘next Katie Taylor’ tag breezed by her, but word was spreading about the Enniskerry pocket rocket coming through the ranks – with Bray’s most famous export among those following from afar.

“Katie came into the High Performance two or three years ago and said ‘at last we meet’,” smiles Moorehouse.

“Before that we’d never met each other, obviously because Katie’s always in America, but I was like ‘yay’… it was great that she knew who I was.”

And now, with Taylor’s highly-anticipated rematch with Amanda Serrano rescheduled from July until November, the 22-year-old is the talk of the town.

In Bangkok last month, at the third time of asking, Moorehouse nailed down her spot on the Irish team bound for the Olympic Games in Paris – a dream she wasn’t sure would be realised after so many near misses, and one that still feels barely real less than four weeks out.

“It’s been crazy… I still can’t even describe it. But then when I got home and saw my family, people were coming to the door with flowers, then it sinks in – ‘oh my God, it’s real’.”

That was the last stop on a long journey that started at the European Olympic qualifier in Poland 12 months ago.

Having accounted for experienced Ukrainian Tetiana Kob in her first outing, only French flyweight Wassila Lkhadiri stood between the Bray pocket rocket and a place in Paris.

After winning the first two rounds 3-2 on the judges’ scorecards, she had one hand on the golden ticket - but Lkhadiri came on strong in the last, 4-1 in her favour enough to squeeze across the line; and enough to leave the Irish camp in shock.

History repeated itself at the first World qualifier in March when another split decision controversially went the way of her opponent – leaving everything hinging on the last chance saloon in Bangkok.

“When I got home [from Italy], I didn’t really have the chance to feel sorry for myself because I was getting ready to go to Thailand again. I was definitely thinking ‘why? Why couldn’t I get over the line this time?’ I did everything right.

“But, as well when I was over there, even though I didn’t qualify, the experience I got was crazy. My first fight was against the current World silver medallist, I beat her very well – I actually shocked myself a bit.

“So even though, ultimately, it didn’t go the way I wanted, it definitely stood to me when I got to Thailand because I knew I was up there with those girls.”

And it paid off when it mattered.

Having waited a week to get into the ring, Moorehouse fought three times in three days – the last of which, on the evening of the final day of the qualifier, would ultimately decide her fate.

Friends and team-mates Jennifer Lehane and Grainne Walsh had already secured their spots earlier that afternoon, and watching them strengthened her resolve to join the party - even if the ghosts of previous near misses proved hard to shake.

This time, Moorehouse knew, there could be no split decisions; nothing left to chance.

“It definitely was on my mind.

“The two girls had already fought, I was in the room watching Jenny and Grainne, absolutely bawling when they were winning. After that it was like ‘right, it’s down to me now, I have to do this - please God, just get me over this line’.

“I just went for it. I know what it feels like to get so close, I definitely didn’t want for that to happen again, with it being my last chance until the next Olympics. It was now or never. Then once that final bell went, I knew… I knew I had it.”

The doubts, the uncertainty, the fears – all of that disappeared the second her hand was raised.

Had it not gone her way, who knows? Moorehouse has never wanted to go pro but, when it gets to that stage, everything is on the table.

Now, though, only one remains.

“I don’t know, I feel like the past year, I’ve had so many options open in my head which I’ve never had before…

“But I just want to go to the Olympics, see how we do, then go from there. I could do another four years, I really could - even getting there has been crazy.”