One Night in Millstreet review: Entertaining documentary of Collins-Eubank clash a real triumph

Colourful cast of characters makes for an epic yarn told in compelling style by Andrew Gallimore’s captivating film

One Night in Millstreet
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Director: Andrew Gallimore
Cert: 12A
Starring: Steve Collins, Chris Eubank, Barry Hearn, Paul Howard, Noel C Duggan, Barry McGuigan
Running Time: 1 hr 79 mins

It is impossible to set aside thoughts of Leon Gast’s immortal When We Were Kings when considering this enormously entertaining documentary on a legend from the immediate prehistory of Celtic-Tiger Ireland.

In both, plucky individuals stage a world title fight in the most unlikely of locations. Chris Eubank stands in for George Foreman (very different temperaments). Steve Collins is Muhammad Ali (he’ll take it). County Cork is Kinshasa (similar rainy seasons). And Paul Howard is in the Norman Mailer seat (oh, why not?).

Those facetious comparisons are not to undermine Andrew Gallimore’s achievement in any way. His film is a well-told yarn that, despite delivering big laughs, treats all its subjects with great respect. One leaves feeling energised such people walk the earth.

So much is packed in a tidy package.


In 1995, Eubank, a monocled Londoner with the grandest of dictions, was at the height of his considerable pomp.

When a proposed super-middleweight title defence against Ray Close fell through, Steve Collins, an intelligent Cabra middleweight who had taken a decade to reach the top, moved up a class to accept the challenge. Las Vegas, Atlantic City and, well, Kinshasa lost out as the promoters took themselves to the Green Glens Arena in Millstreet.

Noel C Duggan, owner of that complex, emerges as a plucky hero of the era. This was, he explains, still a difficult time when “all the money coming in was going to Dublin”.

But he got the Eurovision Song Contest to Millstreet in 1993 and, thus, prepared the ground for this epic confrontation.

Barry Hearn, the legendary sports promoter who was then Eubank’s manager, offers a definitive take on Duggan’s deceptive sharpness. Explaining how he was invited in for a bowl of soup, Hearn calls him a “nice fellow” before waggling a shook hand and joking he “should have counted these fingers” afterwards.

The film’s argument is that everyone initially thought the Irishman had no chance.

“Our only worry was that Collins would get killed,” Duggan remarks.

Yet, by the time they arrived at the stadium, Eubank was feeling distinctly uneasy. The champ is a big enough fellow to now raise two thumbs at Collins’s cunning during the press conference (he spoke in Irish for long sections), but rumours of the challenger’s unlikely preparations sowed genuine doubts.

Enter yet another extraordinary character. Tony Quinn, an all-purpose guru who claimed he had never before seen a boxing match, became the closest thing Collins had to a trainer. There was talk of hypnosis. There was talk of dark arts.

“What a load of rubbish,” Hearn comments with a snort. “The only person who didn’t think it a load of rubbish was Chris Eubank. He thought it was black magic.”

One Night in Millstreet will play well to those who remember the confrontation. Contributors such as Barry McGuigan, always good company on these things, and Paul Howard, a boxing writer at the time, have the wit and depth of knowledge to flesh out suspicions then not fully formed (a box of Silk Cut next to a keyboard alone conjures a lost era of journalism). But it may play even better to those who don’t know the ending.

Editing the fight footage with great skill, the filmmakers tease us with retrospective speculation about what was going through the judges’ minds. Nobody mentions the eventual result. Right until the triumphant hand is raised both men seem plausible winners.

All domestic viewers will – though this is not mentioned – respond equivocally to an Ireland right on the cusp of transformation. Riverdance had happened. We could still win the Eurovision merely by turning up. But we were not yet bathing the pedigree whippets in Château Lafite Rothschild. Just seconds later . . .

One Night in Millstreet is in cinemas from April 5th.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist