Cork County Boxing Board look for support from the Taoiseach

Cork County Boxing Board look for support from the Taoiseach
Taoiseach Micheal Martin presenting Leanne Murphy of Togher BC with the 'Champion Of Champions' Perpetual Cup, a trophy named in honour of his late father Paddy 'The Champ' Martin. Picture: Doug MInihane

THE Cork County Boxing Board this week wrote to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin requesting an urgent meeting.

In a detailed and comprehensive letter, the Board outlined their plans and are seeking the Taoiseach's support in a significant drive to provide a permanent home for Cork boxing.

The new Taoiseach is acutely aware of the ambitions of the sport on Leeside. 

In recent years, Martin has patronised Cork boxing through his attendance at numerous functions and events.

His late father Paddy Martin, affectionately known as "The Champ", was an athlete who captured the imagination of the Cork sporting pubic.

Later, with Tim O'Sullivan, Paddy became the founding member of the Cork Ex Boxers Association who next year celebrate their Golden Jubilee.

Meanwhile, the former Lord Mayor of Cork, Sean Martin, Michael's brother, is the current Chairman of the progressive Spartan BC based in Turner's Cross, while his nephew and son of his sister Eileen, Luke O'Mahony, boxes out of the Sunnyside BC.

In its communication, the Cork Board, founded in 1914, highlighted the urgency of their plight and made a very compelling case for permanent amenities for the sport.

The Cork Board is the second biggest in the Republic of Ireland with Dublin being the largest with over 60 clubs from a population of over 2.3 million. 

In comparison, Cork has close to thirty clubs from a population of under half a million, which per capita makes Leeside one of the most influential boxing units in the Republic.

The Dublin County Board operates out of the Ringside club adjacent to the National Stadium on the South Circular Road.

This venue provides continuous security of tenure for Dublin and is a permanent base from which they can plan and guarantee certainty from year to year.

However, this is not the case in Cork. For over a century, Cork boxing has prevailed against a background of struggle and strife, with no recognised venue or headquarters.

In 2010, the matter was acknowledged by the then Cork City Manager Joe Gavin and he made provision for a site to be allocated to the Cork Board in the Knocknaheeny area, the terms of which were a 99-year sporting lease at one euro per annum.

The Cork City Council has made pitches available to many other sporting codes on this basis. At that time, at a meeting with Cork City Hall officials, the County Board expressed a desire to erect a modest building to cater for their needs.

However, City-County architects became creative and drew up plans for a state of the art Centre of Excellence at the cost of around €3m.

At this point, the Board had no way of raising that type of money and funding would come from applications made to the Department of sport and from Regeneration funding from the Department of the Environment.

In May 2014, a delegation from the Cork Board, led by the then President Ted Barry, met with the Minister for Sport Michael Ring at his office in Leinster House.

This was a strong Cork team and included John Wiseman, Tom Murray, Michael O' Brien, IABA Chairman John Lynch, IABA CEO Fergal Carruth and former Cork TD Darra Murphy.

Following a long meeting with the Minister and is officials - on a day when it was announced that Páirc Uí Chaoimh was to receive €30m in government support - Michael Ring indicated that he was favourably disposed toward allocating €1 million to the Cork boxing project.

However, no further funding came on stream, and the ambitious project was put on the long finger.

Local negotiation continued with the Cork Council and following a meeting with Anne Doherty, Jim Donovan and Stephen Scully, the Council agree to find an interim headquarters for the Cork Board, For the last five years this has been an excellent partnership. However, the Board must plan on a permanent basis for the future.

On November 30 last, which was the morning of the counts on four nationwide by-elections, Micheál Martin found the time to deliver a keynote speech at the Cork Boxing Breakfast, The IABA Officer Board attended the function. In his address, Martin spoke proudly as the son of a Cork boxer and hailed the exceptional organisational skills of the Cork Boxing Board.

Cork boxing supporters, meantime, could be forgiven for now thinking in biblical terms as they hope that Micheál Martin - in the name of the father - will become the boxing Messiah and lead his chosen people to the promised land.

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