Cork County Board celebrate a centenary of boxing

Cork County Board celebrate a centenary of boxing

The Cork Ex Boxers Association pictured in the eighties. Front: Tim McNamee, Tim O'Sullivan, Paddy Martin, Kid Cronin, John Martin, Teddy Keating. Middle: Jim Fitzgerald, Mossie O'Callaghan, Emar Coughlan, Tom Kelleher, Mick Macken, Ray Donnelly, Seamus Cummins (alias Tom O'Connor). Back: O'Shaughnessy, Charles Cogan, John Kelleher, John Hennessy, Tommy McNamee. Ref Exam 720D

RECENTLY, a delegation from the Cork County Boxing Board was presented with medallions by the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Joe Kavanagh to mark the Centenary of the Burning of Cork.

On the night of Saturday, September 11, 1920, many of Cork's City Centre buildings were burnt to the ground by the Black and Tans.

The heart was of torn out of the city. This was 100 years ago, and on that evening the sport of boxing also fell victim to British brutality.

Much of Patrick's Street and adjoining streets were torched. 

The Tans then marched over the bridges and burnt the old City Hall to the ground.

Across the road in Copley Street, two tenement houses, where seven families lived, were reduced to embers.

Next door to those homes was a ground floor store.

This was home to the Parnell's Boxing Club, and it also became part of the inferno. 

That club was in existence above six years at the time and had the proud distinction of producing the first Cork County champion.

Those Championships took place six years earlier in 1914, and Tom O'Sullivan, representing the Parnell's Club, had the honour of being presented with the first County Championship medal at the inaugural event which took place as an open-air tournament in Fitzgerald's Park in May of that year.

The Parnell club had over seventy boxers who trained in the unit five nights a week. 

The club coaches were Humphrey Lynch from Greenmount, Paddy Daly from Douglas Street, Willie O'Reilly from Broad Lane, later known as Liberty Street, and Ned Power from Crosses Green.

The unit had produced many County champion and was thriving in that locality. 

They also received a lot of support from the monks of O'Sullivan's Quay and the local school in Greenmount.

Sadly, however, following the fire, the club lost their base and subsequently became defunct. Their trainers joined other clubs but the club never reformed and faded out of existence.

Following the fire, many businesses sued the British government, including the Cork City Council. They were subsequently compensated and rebuilt and re-established.

A new Cork City Hall was build and opened sixteen years later in 1936. 

Boxing never took place in the old City Hall but from the night the new premises opened its doors boxing flourished and enjoyed many big nights in the new building.

In 1970, 50 years later, Tom Twomey, a local historian, gave a talk on what happened that night at the Cork City Library.

In the audience were two retired Irish boxing internationals: Paddy "The Champ" Martin and Tim O'Sullivan, affectionately known as the breadwinner.

Around this time boxing was at its lowest ebb for many years, and both agreed that they needed to do something about the sport they were passionate about.

Simultaneously, Victor Aston and Dan O'Connell were working with the Cork County Board, and they immediately implemented plans which created a revival amateur boxing.

Their success around that time has been widely acknowledged and admired in this column on numerous occasions in recent years.

Following on from this, O'Sullivan and Martin concentrated on creating a club for former boxers.

In September 1972, O'Sullivan, accompanied by members of his family was in Dublin for the Cork and Kilkenny All-Ireland hurling final.

On the day O'Sullivan was milling around O'Connell Street and bumped into the famed Irish European champion Maxie McCullough.

The Dubliner told him he was going to a meeting and invited O'Sullivan to join him across the road in Parnell Square where the Dublin Ex Boxers Association were congregating.

He assured O'Sullivan that he would learn a lot from the meeting and would be back with his family within the hour. The following day the Cork hurlers returned to Leeside without the McCarthy Cup, but O'Sullivan returned with the blueprint to set up the Cork Ex Boxers Association.

Immediately, O'Sullivan and Martin contacted ex boxers and invited them to become involved. 

The fledging Association began to take shape, and meetings took place monthly at their headquarters which was the backroom of Canty's Bar on Pembroke Street.

Over the years, the Cork Ex Boxers have grown from strength to strength.

They continue to pay tribute to Cork boxers and club who have made a contribution to the sport on Leeside over the last 100 years.

And they remember the great men at the Parnell's club who suffered the ultimate sacrifice of losing their premises at the hand of England over a century ago.

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