Walsh family have contributed so much to the Cork boxing community

Walsh family have contributed so much to the Cork boxing community
Maurice 'Pip' Walsh, with his colleagues from the world of boxing at an awards ceremony in the Commons Hotel, Mick Devane, Riverstown,Tom Kelleher, Glen Boxing Club, and Billy O'Donovan of Leeside Lough. Picture: Doug Minihane.

THE late Maurice Walsh sat at the centre of table 12 surrounded by his wife Margaret and family on Friday, November 10, 2017.

The occasion was a special dinner dance at the Commons Inn to mark the most successful year in Cork boxing history.

Walsh was one of four special guests being honoured on the night as Cork celebrated winning 33 All-Ireland titles that year.

It was an evening to remember for all Leeside boxing enthusiasts, and the hall was suitably adorned to celebrate the occasion accordingly.

Maurice looked relaxed amid the celebratory atmosphere as he exchanged greetings with many of the 300 guests in attendance.

Four men were honoured on the night were for their long and distinguished service to the promotion and development of boxing.

The four awardees were Maurice, Tom Kelleher, Mick Devane and Billy O'Donovan. The event captured the imagination of the local press and radio and created a massive buzz among Leeside's well-represented clubs.

The dignitaries were led by the then Lord Mayor, Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald and the leader of Fianna Fail and potential Taoiseach, Micheál Martin. The President of the IABA Dom O'Rourke, IABA CEO Fergal Carruth and IABA Officer Board members Art O'Brien, Larry Morrison and Stephen Connelly also attended as guests of the Cork Board.

All individual guests were treated to a reception, including Olympic champion Michael Carruth.

A special presentation was given to Carruth by the President of the Cork Board, Michael O'Brien, to mark the 25th anniversary of his gold medal win at Barcelona 1992.

Throughout the evening, the Olympic champion paraded his gold medal and facilitated hundreds of patrons who wished to have their picture taken with him.

As Maurice Walsh sat at his table, a steady stream of guests approached the St Colman's BC stalwart and congratulated him on his many years of service to the sport.

Before the main event, there was a fear expressed by the organising committee that Maurice, if he knew he was the recipient of the award, might have declined the invitation as he was a shy man by nature.

However, he was informed that it was his son Pa that was being honoured, and if Pa failed to show up, it could have been embarrassing for the Board.

Therefore, Maurice was asked to ensure that his son would be there on the night. In the background, and to some amusement, the entire Walsh family were fully aware of the scheme.

Maurice, a man who would be usually attired in his trademark tracksuit and baseball cap, was looking resplendent dressed in a mohair suit, and, in his 80th year, was ready to party.

Following the dinner and speech, it was time for the special presentations. It was agreed, to maintain the element of surprise and that Maurice would be the first recipient, but as proceedings unfolded, it became clear that the tables had been turned on him.

The pleasantly shocked and speechless recipient made his way to the stage to the backdrop of a standing ovation. The presentation was a beautiful piece of bevelled glass suitably inscribed and presented by Michael Carruth.

The other three award winners, Devane, Kelleher and O'Donovan, were also warmly received and acknowledged for their remarkable contribution to boxing over many years.

Following the presentations, and a comprehensive outline of Maurice Walsh's career, his wife, and three sons, Pa, Kevin and Billy, expressed their thanks and gratitude to the County Board for honouring their dad at what they described as a magnificent occasion.

Meanwhile, following the recent death of Mr Walsh, the three men that were honoured with him that night all reflected on their friendship with the acclaimed coach.

Devane said: "Maurice was a man of high standards but great fun. We travelled together to Belfast and Derry and all parts of Ireland. I always admired the way he ran his club tournament every year."

O'Donovan remarked that "Maurice Walsh was a top coach who was admired and respected throughout the country," adding, "Maurice's sons won 22 All-Ireland titles, the first of which was claimed at Cork's City Hall in 1985."

"Maurice was a gentleman and a man who would travel anywhere," said Kelleher. "I will never forget the sparring sessions when he was around.

"The one thing that Maurice forgot was he forget to remind me that he was bringing Floyd Patterson to Cork. I only found out about it when he was gone. Maurice Walsh's memory will live on."

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