John Casey lands Cork Boxing personality gong

John Casey lands Cork Boxing personality gong
A familiar sight for Cork Boxing supporters as referee John Casey issues instructions to two young boxers ahead of their contest at the County Championships in Churchfield. Picture: Doug Minihane

JOHN CASEY had been named Cork 2020 Boxing Personality of the Year.

His selection has received widespread approval from supporters not only in Cork but throughout the country.

The announcement was made recently by Conal Thomas, President of the Cork Boxing Fraternity Association.

Last year's recipient was the experienced and long-serving coach Tom Kelleher. 

The popular Kelleher has given over fifty years of service to boxing, and he expressed great delight on winning the prestigious accolade.

When announcing this year's winner, Conal Thomas said there were five nominations but after much debate, it was unanimously agreed that Casey was the man.

The President of the IABA Dom O'Rourke said that the selection of Casey was a timely choice and congratulated the Leesider whom he described as a man who had given trojan service as a local, national and international Referee and Judge.

"This man reached the pinnacle of world boxing as a referee. 

"He is widely respected and acclaimed on the international scene and travelled the world as a first-class representative of the IABA. He truly deserves this recognition in his own city," said O'Rourke.

For the first sixteen years of his life, Casey lived on the Army campus at Collins Barracks on Military Road. 

Corks leading Boxing Referee John Casey of Macroom. Picture: Doug Minihane
Corks leading Boxing Referee John Casey of Macroom. Picture: Doug Minihane

His father, Joe, was a member of the Defence Forces.

Casey recalls that the barracks was a Mecca for all sports with personnel excelling in various disciplines.

Casey said his dad was a Kerryman who loved Gaelic Football, but who went on to make a name for himself in basketball and captained the Irish team on many occasions.

Casey added that his dad also played a significant role with Waterford FC during their glory days in League of Ireland football in the 1960s and 1970s.

Casey was attracted to the boxing ring on the campus from a young age. 

Here, he was encouraged by the army coach Dan O'Connell, no relation to Dan O'Connell who is also an army man and who on to become Cork most acclaimed international ambassador for boxing.

Young Casey was immediately attracted to boxing and loved to listen to older members talk of the great boxers during that era including Muhammad Ali and Jim McCourt who won a bronze medal for Ireland at Tokyo 1964.

Casey spent four years with the Collins BC and then move on to other sports. 

However, the lure of boxing was always there, and he returned at 16-years-of-age and joined Ireland's oldest club, the Glen BC.

He represented the unit for the next twelve years, travelling all over Ireland for tournaments and Championships. His coach during those years was John Martin, a well-known tactician and cornerman.

Casey enjoyed many years in the ring where he boxed at light heavy. 

He believes that the experience was an education and he learned a lot about people and life itself.

One of his fondest memories was lining out for the Glen at the Rylane BC inaugural tournament in 1979. 

At 28-years-of-age, Casey retired from the sport and began to raise a family. He worked as a DJ for 34 years.

He moved to Macroom to live and pursue a career in the Taxi business. While living in Macroom, he became very active with the local club.

The Macroom unit helped produce double Elite champion Christina Desmond, a potential Olympian.

Casey, at that point, also became the Macroom BC representative to the Cork County Boxing Board.

While attending County Board meetings, Casey was encouraged to take up refereeing and judging by Board Secretary John Wiseman, who said: "At first John was very reluctant to get involved, but I kept at him.

"When he was judging for a while, I suggested that he should take up refereeing. 

"At first, he was a bit iffy, but I did succeed in getting him into the ring. He immediately took to refereeing like a duck to water. 

"He went from modest Cork boxing halls to the world stage of international and Olympic boxing."

Casey travelled the world as a ref and has officiated all over Ireland and the UK, America, Russia, Cuba, Asia and large tracts of Europe.

Five years ago, Michael O'Brien, President of the Cork Board, appointed Casey Director of Cork Boxing.

"This was a very successful appointment, and John did a magnificent job over that period," said O'Brien.

Casey got the nod to referee the biggest fight at the Stadium in recent years when he took charge of the Ken Egan and Joe Ward fight, which Ward won seven years ago.

"Following that fight, Egan announced his retirement and I will never forget I couldn't get out of the ring for fifteen minutes as the crowd clapped and cheered," said Casey.

On the 15 of December last, Casey phoned Michael O'Brien and informed him that he was officially retiring from international and Olympic boxing because of severe arthritis.

Casey asked O'Brien would he communicate this officially to the IABA in Dublin. 

Last February, at the IABA Awards in Dublin, Casey was presented with a Distinguished Service Award.

The IABA National Register Stephen Connelly paid tribute to Casey when he said he was a great ambassador for Cork and Irish boxing and was well respected on the world stage.

Tom Kelleher also paid tribute to Casey.

"He was a big man in the ring but always had impeccable timing and always ensured that boxers boxed when they were in the ring."

John Casey will receive his Cork Boxing Personality of the Year Award as a guest of the Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Joe Kavanagh, in City Hall next week.

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