It was a crowded corner of a busy gym, he stood alone. A low-key media workout for a small-hall boxing event, off the back of a year-long injury-enforced absence. Eric Donovan, frustrated but enduring.
There was a small ring in the corner of a crowded public gym. He climbed in and began tapping pads with his trainer, Kenny Egan, as dumbells clank moronically in the background. Afterwards, he greets every journalist, fighter and fan by name.
By the last interview, the restrains loosen and Donovan lets loose.
"I always said some of the best, most memorable moments on live TV have been boxing moments. For people in Ireland, the likes of Barry McGuigan, Steven Collins, Bernard Dunne. Them guys have been given an opportunity on live TV. Give us a chance! We want to showcase our skills, we want to give the nation a lift."
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) July 6, 2018
He then quietly cursed, as he contemplated the series of setbacks. A missed Olympics. A complicated rotator cuff injury. A disastrous decline of Irish boxing because of operational matters outside of his control.
It was a seldom slip from his usual refined manner.
Nine months later, last night Eric Donovan's eagerly anticipated opportunity arose. A top-bill fight on terrestrial television at the national stadium. In his way stood Stephan McAfee.
It was a chance he could not let slip. Boxing in the capital has been off the grid for the best part of a decade, it has reignited thanks to the small hall shows he headlined.
He rose to the occasion with a stinging left hook in the fourth round. It reduced the dogged Dubliner to his knees and lifted the stadium to its feet. The smile that lingers over an hour later says it all, everlasting ecstasy.
it's nearly midnight and he's still sitting outside the dressing room with his family by his side, overjoyed at finally fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Brilliant, amazing like. I dreamed about nights like this as a young kid. I never had an opportunity to have a main event like that. Live on TV. I think the last time I was live on TV was one of my senior titles as an amateur. Then the WSB and stuff like that but to have that there, after everything I've been through and come back from, it was amazing for me on a personal and professional level. Family and friends here, it couldn't have better.
With former Olympian Kenneth Egan as coach, Donovan was fully prepped to go the full ten rounds. The last ten weeks have been entirely orchestrated around that possibility. Ten weeks of camp, training ten times a week which involved ten sessions of sparring, ten rounds hitting the bag, ten rounds on the track.
Even with an early stoppage secured, there is no doubt that camp will stand to him moving forward.
"This was my best preparation, full stop. Everything clicked, sponsors came on board. Hardings Kitchens came on board to provide me with the food I need every day, 2,500, 3,000 calories every day. Before I didn't really have that, I didn't understand the whole science of it but this fight here we prepared meticulously with that kind of stuff."
Saturday night was one of the most entertaining undercards Irish boxing has witnessed in years. A host of young, talented brawlers went toe-to-toe willing to risk it all.
Donovan's delight at this detail is definite.
"It's back up and running. Irish boxing needed this. Irish boxers needed it. There is a changing of the guard now in Ireland which is good, this will be more regular. I think there will be a fanbase, around the country and in towns."
A hometown fight in Kildare is a possibility, while a European title fight is an ultimate goal. For now, Donovan can rest assured that finally, he has had his night.
It is clear that frustration of yesteryear has been convincingly cast aside, the future looks bright.
I'm ready for whatever. I'll take a little bit of rest now after training so hard. I went to spend some time with Laura and my kids. We're going away in April to Spain to meet some wedding planners. We're getting married next year, so we can't wait for that. It's all good.