The 'Father of Cork Boxing' Tim O'Sullivan leaves a lasting legacy on Leeside

The 'Father of Cork Boxing' Tim O'Sullivan leaves a lasting legacy on Leeside

Tim O'Sullivan presenting Gordon Joyce with a commemorative plaque at a special function to mark his achievements in boxing. Also included are Conal Thomas of the Cork Boxing Federation and Michael O'Brien, President of the Cork County Boxing Board. Picture: Doug Minihane

TIM O'SULLIVAN, affectionately known as the 'Father of Cork Boxing', was laid to rest on Tuesday last aged 92.

The former International represented Ireland on 16 occasions and was known, admired and respected throughout the island of Ireland.

As he approached his 17th birthday, he contacted a club known as the CCNBC with a view to joining the unit.

This was the Cork Catholic News Boys Club which was situated on Lavitt's Quay. The outfit was well-run and produced many champions under a strong committee and the Chairmanship of Patrick Hegarty, a prominent solicitor on the South Mall.

The young O'Sullivan knocked around with Joe Murphy, who was an outstanding athlete with the club. O'Sullivan was encouraged by what he saw and requested membership.

As he stumbled into the unit the first night by chance, it eventually led to an international career.

His partner was Tim Vaughan who immigrated to Birmingham and teamed up as a coach with Frank O'Sullivan at the Birmingham City ABC.

O'Sullivan was originally from Shandon Street and was knighted for services to amateur boxing by the Queen of England in 2012.

Vaughan, who hailed from Spangle Hill, stayed with the Birmingham club for over 50 years and died recently.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, an honorary life member of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association, pictured with Tim O'Sullivan and Paddy McSweeney of the CEBA. The Taoiseach lead the tributes on the death of his familys life long friend last weekend. Picture: Doug Minihane
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, an honorary life member of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association, pictured with Tim O'Sullivan and Paddy McSweeney of the CEBA. The Taoiseach lead the tributes on the death of his familys life long friend last weekend. Picture: Doug Minihane

In 1947 Tim O'Sullivan was becoming very competitively involved as a boxer, winning a Munster Senior title that year. In 1948, he recorded 25 straight victories and as the Munster champion was narrowly defeated in the Elite final at the National Stadium in Dublin.

He was then shortlisted as a trialist for the 1948 Olympic team and was selected to travel to London for the Games of that year.

However, he developed a wrist problem and was declared unfit to box. He was later presented with a specially commissioned silver medal by the IABA to mark his original selection as an Irish Olympian.

O'Sullivan continued to represent Ireland. In his last bout for his country, he lost out to the American Olympian Rosco Teela.

In his career, O'Sullivan won seven County titles and five Munster gold medals and boxed all over the country.

A much-loved character he always told hilarious and delightful stories.

On one occasion he fought on a barge which was anchored out of Cobh. He recalled that when his hand was raised in victory, the disgruntled coach from the other corner dispatched the refereed straight into the river.

On another occasion, he recalled taking part in a tournament out in a mid-Cork area known as Stuaeck. This was in the 1940s. Everything at the time was rationed, and there were no cups or medals available.

The prize for the winner on the day was a loaf of bread. Tim duly won the contest and was presented with the loaf. While he was changing, he gave the bread to a friend to mind.

However, hunger got the better of his compatriot, and when O'Sullivan returned a few minutes later, the bread was well scoffed, while O'Sullivan was always remembered as the breadwinner from that day.

In the early 1970s, O'Sullivan founded the Cork Ex Boxers Association with Paddy Martin. Two years later he founded the successful Ballinlough BC.

O'Sullivan encouraged many youngsters to join the club, one of whom was Paddy McSweeney who enjoyed a great career with the unit winning many County and Munster titles.

Coached by O'Sullivan, McSweeney came within an inch of achieving full international status.

Following his retirement, he became a coach with the Ballinlough outfit where he enjoyed a personal friendship with O'Sullivan for 45 years.

In recent years, McSweeney directed the Spartan BC to unprecedented success in both male and female boxing while also holding down the post of Treasurer of the Cork Ex Boxers.

Recently, McSweeney was elected President-designate of the organisation.

By profession, Tim O'Sullivan was a charted physio and had his clinic on Maylor Street for over 50 years.

Amongst his clients were some of the greatest athletes in the world. These included John Walker, Ronnie Delaney and Noel Carroll.

Many prominent League of Ireland players were also treated at O'Sullivan's clinic, in addition to Denis Law, George Best, Noel Cantwell and Sir Matt Busby, who sprained his ankle when United came to Cork in the 1960s.

Jim "Tough" Barry, the famed hurling trainer and former boxer, sent many GAA stars to O'Sullivan's clinic, including the great Christy Ring.

Mick O'Dwyer, the legendary Kerry football manager, retained O'Sullivan's services in 1975 when the Kingdom won the first of eight All-Ireland titles under his stewardship.

Many of the greatest rugby names in the world ended up on O'Sullivan's couch, as the IRFU appointed him physio to all touring rugby team which included the All Blacks, South Africa and Australia.

Kevin Cummings, the managing director of the Cummings Sports chain in Cork, captained the Cork minors to an All-Ireland title in 1964.

Cummings tells a delightful story about how his club, Blackrock, were complete outsiders against St Finbarr's in the final of the City Division of the Minor Hurling Championships in 1963.

It was suggested at a Blackrock club meeting that Tim O'Sullivan had a new treatment machine which if applied to player's legs would discharge a form of electricity which would boost tired limbs toward the end of games.

The entire Blackrock hurling squad arrived at O'Sullivan's clinic to avail of the secret treatment. It was later called, "The Maylor Street Magic."

On the day of the final O'Sullivan arrived at the ground fine and early. However, by half-time, Blackrock was five goals in arrears.

As the team left the pitch for the break, it was noted that Tim O'Sullivan had absconded. However, it was generally believed he was not very far away.

In the second half, the Rockies came out and devastated the Barr's, and in an amazing turnaround blitzed the opposition and won the game by four points.

As the cup was being presented to Blackrock, O'Sullivan was back in the ground beaming like a Cheshire cat. And as he basked in the Rockies success, one supporter shouted: "Well done Tim, your shock treatment did the trick".

With tongue in cheek, O'Sullivan replied: "It was the Barr's that got the biggest shock of all."

Following that win, Cummings was selected to captain the Cork team the following year. This week he paid tribute to Tim O'Sullivan and said "his passing was a sad day for all in Cork sport."

On Tuesday afternoon last at the graveside the President of the Cork Board, Michael O'Brien, speaking with passion and grace concluded a beautiful eulogy by saying: "Tim O'Sullivan was a modest man who died as he lived without any great fuss but he has left us a treasure trove of cherished memories which will stand the test of time."

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