A GRAN has revealed how she floored Northern Irish political heavyweight Mike Nesbitt with a single punch.
Marie Hyland, 72, landed a single blow on the former broadcaster who quit last month as Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
The pair had been chatting about her grandson, pro boxer Paul Hyland, 32, when he jokingly challenged her to a fight.
Speculation about what happened has been feverish since a picture of him flat out, with her tugging at his collar in the hotel lobby was published a week ago.
She said: "I just clipped him with a quick right. He went down like a sack of spuds and he couldn't get up."
She was at a family wedding at The Stormont Hotel, Belfast, and Mr Nesbitt was enjoying drink with pals after a round of golf.
Marie had been saying how proud she was of her grandson, the Irish super bantamweight boxing champ Paul Hyland.
She said: "He challenged me to a boxing match. I knew he was only messing.
"He said, 'I'll box you'. I knew he was joking, but he picked on the wrong girl."
She said Nesbitt had been the life and soul of the party, joining in with a sing-song in the bar at the hotel, across the road from Parliament Buildings.
She had been enjoying a family wedding with her close friends Jeanie Carson and Jeanie Kavanagh when the politician and two friends landed in the bar beside them.
"They had been playing golf and came in for a drink before they went home. He still had his clubs with him.
"I noticed Mike was swaying about a bit, but he was in good spirits and there was great banter and he was in the middle of it.
"We all enjoy a wee sing-song and Mike was singing away with the best of them. We have a video of Mike singing along with other members of my family." She said she had been talking to Nesbitt about her pride in her boxer grandson when suddenly he jokingly put up his fists and challenged her to a fight!
"Next thing Mike got down on his knees and stuck up his mitts. He said, 'I'll box you'. I knew he was joking, but he picked on the wrong girl.
"I just clipped him with a short right. It was only a wee touch, but he went down like a sack of spuds and we couldn't get him up. It was embarrassing!" said Marie.
"It was only a wee dig. If I had hit him properly, he would still be lying there now - it's in my genes you know!"
But she was quick to knock down rumours of sectarian comments "That's just not true. There was nothing like that. He was just full," said Marie.
And she revealed she was afraid she'd knocked him cold.
A picture of a prone Mike face down in the lobby of the Stormont Hotel, with Marie and her friends trying to bring him round, has sparked a fortnight of fevered speculation about what happened.
"Mike was flat out on the floor and I wanted him back up on his feet right away. He seemed to be out for the count. He was rightly, but I still wanted him back on his feet. Everybody was watching and laughing.
"I grabbed him by the collar and I was trying to yank him up, but I couldn't move him. He is a ton weight. I was shouting, 'C'mon Mike get up!' "My friends were also trying to get him up, but he was dead to the world.
"I was straining so hard I injured my back trying to lift him. And I had to go home early because I was in so much pain. He's a big eejit.
"And to tell you the truth I haven't been right since it. My back's killing me. That's why you caught me in my pyjamas because I've been sleeping on the settee ever since," said Marie.
"I couldn't believe it when I looked up and saw everyone with their phones out taking pictures. I just thought, 'Oh God no!"
The sprightly pensioner has been the toast of west Belfast since she toppled towering Mike two weeks ago.
Strangford MLA Nesbitt, who is also running in next month's general election, has remained tight-lipped about the incident.
The normally super-cool and talkative father of four brass-necked it by simply blanking reporters' questions.
For seven days solid, Nesbitt has steadfastly refused to cough about how he ended up comatose on the carpet of the prestigious hotel, just yards from the main entrance to Parliament Buildings at Stormont.
"I went to the hotel with three friends and things happened," he said.
"When you have a profile and you go out in public, you can't expect people to fully respect your privacy," said Nesbitt before quickly pulling down the shutters.
And he added: "I don't want to say any more."
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