Glen Boxing Club to celebrate their long connection with hurling icon Christy Ring

Glen Boxing Club to celebrate their long connection with hurling icon Christy Ring

Glen BC Head Coach Tom Kelleher (on left) and his brother John, who joined the club in 1948, reminisce on earlier days and the clubs long standing association with Glen Rovers and its shared members. Picture:Doug Minihane

THIS Friday's Mass in St Augustine's Church in Washington Street will mark the Centenary of the birth of hurling legend Christy Ring.

The 11am service was requested by the Glen Boxing Club in Blackpool to acknowledge Ring's association with their unit from 1941 to 1966.

St Augustine's Church was always a sacred place for Ring. When he lived over the Fountain Cafe on the Grand Parade for over 17 years, he attended 7.30 am Mass there every day of the week.

Last year, when a plaque was unveiled on the Boxing Wall in Bishop Lucey Park to acknowledged the Glen as Ireland's oldest boxing club, Bishop Fintan of Cork was invited.

However, on the day he was in Rome and asked the prior of St Augustine's, Father John John Lyng, to represent him.

The main picture above shows great Glen BC boxing stalwarts Tom and John Kelleher, admiring a picture of Ring which is on display in the Glen unit.

On his arrival in Blackpool in 1941, Ring was quickly introduced to all in the boxing club in Spring Lane. Here, he immediately saw the benefits of training with the outfit.

He was assisted by the Glen senior hurling trainer, Micky O'Brien who started as a coach with the boxing unit and helped Ring with building up his upper body strength during the 1940s.

Ring immediately took an interest in the boxers representing the club and closely followed their careers and became friends with many.

At that time, Blackpool was a very close-knit community. John Kelleher recalls joining the Glen BC in 1948. He enlisted on the same day as John Martin.

Martin boxed with the Glen and Ireland. He played hurling with Glen Rovers and later became a coach.

John Kelleher also represented the Glen with distinction. A fine boxer with well-honed ring craft, he eventually turned pro and fought under the name of Sean Leahy. He enjoyed a successful career in the paid ranks.

Around this time the Glen BC was buzzing with top-class athletes. From 1946 to 1948, Jimmy Gunner" Murray won the club's first Irish Senior title, and Jim Corbett was the first Corkman selected to represent Ireland at the European Championships.

The Glen and Ireland boxer Ernie Keeffe became a Blackpool hero as he was a member of the first Irish rugby team to win the Grand Slam in 1948. This success was not repeated again until 2009.

Christy Ring was friendly with all three men and attended Gunner Murray's final training session before his Senior final at Dublin's National Stadium. Ring told Murray to do the club proud and bring the title back to the Glen. Murray obliged.

Apart from his outstanding success on the hurling field, Ring continued to encourage Glen boxers and attended many boxing tournaments in the Glen hurling hall in Blackpool and at City Hall.

He was there on a famous night when Paddy "The Champ" Martin defeated the future British heavyweight champion Joe Bygraves.

Martin also played Gaelic football with Ring as a member of St Nicks, the sister club to Glen Rovers.

In the early 1960s, Ring continued to do his winter training in the boxing club. He was also friendly with Mick Leahy, a Glen boxer who went on the claim the British middleweight crown.

Following that success in 1963, Ring was one of the first to congratulate Leahy on his return to Cork.

Three men who hurled with Ring and each captained Glen Rovers to Senior County success all boxed with the Glen BC.

These were Joe Twoomey, Denis O'Riordan and Vincey Twoomey.

There was a very close affinity between the hurling and boxing club at that time. Jack Lynch, Donie O'Donovan and Jim Young were all frequent visitors to the boxing unit and many hurlers got a rub down before County matches in the unit.

However, the club was finally demolished in 1966. Ten years later Glen hurling star Denis Coughlan sustained a severe injury in the County hurling final against Blackrock.

Following the game, which the Glen won, Jack Lynch and Christy Ring and long-time Glen boxing trainer John "Kid" Cronin went to see Coughlan in hospital.

As they looked around the ward, Kid Cronin spotted Tom Kelleher who was recovering from a leg injury, and referring to his former boxing days said to Lynch and Ring," there's a man who shed blood for the Glen."

Tomorrow Tom Kelleher, who was one of the first in Blackpool to secure the special Centenary Christy Ring jersey, will be proud to lead the Glen boxing club in remembering Christy Ring, the greatest hurler of all time.

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