THE Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Joe Kavanagh, recently rolled out the red carpet to welcome international referee John Casey to City Hall.
The occasion was twofold, as it was to mark Casey's glittering career as an AIBA Three-Star referee and to host the presentation of the 2020 Cork Boxing Sports Personality of the Year Award which Casey won.
Last December Casey officially notified the Cork County Board that he was retiring on medical grounds from officiating at international level.
At that point, Casey was at the top of his career, and his world status had seen him travel throughout Europe and the globe. He was also on the shortlist for the Tokyo 2021 panel.
City Hall was told that his contribution to boxing at County, Provincial and International levels over the last fourteen years has been outstanding and he has brought much credit to the sport and Cork boxing.
The Lord Mayor extended a warm welcome to Casey and his wife, Lorraine. He also welcomed the President of the Cork Boxing Fraternity Association Conal Thomas and the Board President Michael O'Brien.
Cllr. Kavanagh said it was an honour for him to meet and greet such an acclaimed international official.
"On behalf of the people of Cork I congratulate you on your remarkable career as an outstanding ambassador for your sport," he said.
Leeside's first citizen said he had been to many boxing events in recent years and he had great admiration for the way the sport was organised and run in Cork.
He described the success enjoyed by Cork's young boxers in international competition in recent times as incredible.
The Lord Mayor added: "In my opinion, Cork boxing is completely underfunded and looking at what it has achieved with very little begs the question? What would it achieve if real money was pumped into the promotion of the sport?"
Michael O'Brien thanked the Lord Mayor for the warmth of his welcome and his positive and thought-provoking remarks. "The Lord Mayor's words will both inspire and encourage all in Cork boxing to continue their excellent work, he said.
"Boxing has been synonymous with City Hall since 1936, and the sport has been well served by its officials and all the various Lord Mayors down through the decades."
Proceedings then moved on to the presentation of the Cork Boxing Personality of the Year Award where O'Brien orated a comprehensive outline of Casey's career.
"John Casey is admired, acknowledged and respected throughout the world of boxing," he said. "He also had the honour to referee Gary O'Sullivan's last amateur bout. The pair later met on the set of the film "Strenght and Honour."
This film, O'Brien explained, was a boxing drama shot in Cork in 2007. O'Sullivan played the part of a boxer and Casey made his international screen debut as the man in the middle who refereed several fights featured in the movie.
"Both men spent many days on the set together and regularly mixed with international superstars and Hollywood greats, Richard Chamberlain and Patrick Bergin and the former footballer Vinny Jones," said the Cork boxing chief.
Conal Thomas made the formal presentation of the 2020 Award at City Hall. "John is a true gentleman and a man who has given loyal and trojan service at local, national and international levels. He has put Cork and Munster boxing on the map," he said.
Meanwhile, the great boxing warrior Jack Cuthbert passed away last week. The late Mr Cuthbert, who was a baker by profession, played a leading role and held many offices in the hugely successful Ballinlough BC during the 1970s and 1980s.
While the club is now defunct, Jack Cuthbert was part of a stand out committee which included Dr Jim Young as President and Pakey Cremin as Chairman.
The only surviving member of that committee today is the evergreen former international Tim O'Sullivan. In a tribute to that era, Tom Kelleher said the Ballinlough BC was the best club to emerge from the southside.
Paddy McSweeney, the current Spartan BC head coach, was a young boxer with the Ballinlough BC. He recalled that Jack Cuthbert did a tremendous amount of work for the unit.
"He physically created a great clubhouse which had a gym, a ring, toilets and a meeting room. Three of Jack's sons also boxed with the club. They were Gerard, Eddie and Jack Junior." he said.
Last week at his funeral many fireside stories were recalled by Tim O'Sullivan who said that all loved the late Mr Cuthbert.
In a final and fitting tribute, his coffin was draped with the flag of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association. May he rest in eternal peace.