HOPES are high that the coming year will see a spectacular twelve months of boxing on Leeside.
With the availability of a successful Covid-19 vaccine and proper planning, the indications are very promising both inside and outside the ring.
The National Elite Championships are due to take place in Dublin starting on January 8, and it is anticipated that other tournaments will follow if clearance is given through Sport Ireland.
Cork boxing was very fortunate in November 2019 when the National Elites were decided in Dublin. However, for many Cork boxers, because of the Covid-19 virus, this was their last competitive outing.
Following these Championships, the Cork boxing headquarters at Churchfield remained both silent and idle. However, the rent on the unit had to be paid.
Here, once again, the Board received tremendous assistance from the City Council. In addition to paying the rent, and with no income available, the Board were saddled with paying ridiculous service and maintenance charges in addition to ESB and other fees on the building. At the same time, the venue laid idle for the last nine months.
Meanwhile, the five-year lease of these premises expired last month, but the Board has fully discharged all payments due on that period.
The owners then proposed that a new lease would be substantially increased to cover the next five years.
At this point, the Board consulted with the City Council. The Council delegation included Sports Administrator Stephen Scully, Assistant CEO Brian Geaney, former Lord Mayor, Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald and the Taoiseach’s brother Cllr. Sean Martin.
At this meeting, based on reasons which they outlined, the Board expressed strong reservations about entering into a new lease. Following this, a decision was made that an alternative unit should act as a temporary HQ and would be sought.
A week later the City Council returned and corresponded with the Board. They stated in writing that they were fully committed to providing substantial and increased monies to assist the Board in providing premises for Cork boxing for the new three years. The Board were delighted with this response and thanked the City Council.
Following a further meeting with Stephen Scully it was mutually agreed, based on common sense, that the Board would not sign a contract on a new lease for a venue until boxing had officially resumed as there was little point in paying for a unit to stand idle as it was a waste of taxpayer’s money.
In the meantime, the Board has been making tentative enquiries. Several units that are adequate in size have been identified.
Here the Board would like to express their sincere thanks to former Cork Board and Munster Council President Dan O’Connell who has acted as an advisor and consultant to the Board.
Meantime, Board President Michael O’Brien has thanked the City Council for providing storages for the Board’s effects. He also paid tribute to the group of workers who cleaned out the premises.
These included Board Secretary John Wiseman, Vice President Billy O’Sullivan, Treasurer Nicola Murphy, Denis Desmond, Eucharia Murphy, Ted Dineen, Mark Burleigh, Denis Desmond Jnr, John Morrissey, Ken Crinnion and Seanie Barrett, who did outstanding work providing the scaffolding and dismantling and removing the heating system.
Looking toward the future and permanent home, the Board are due to meet the Taoiseach shortly, and plans have already been submitted which will be discussed fully. The Board will be requesting that the Taoiseach exercise his influence to assist in providing a permanent domicile for Cork boxing.
Elsewhere, work will commence on renovating Bishop Lucey Park in January. The Boxing Wall in the park has been the focal point of the sport over the last 10 years.
The plans for the renovated park will see the Boxing Wall relocated and magnificently enhanced. Among the plaques earmarked include the following, Maurice Walsh, Olympic champion Michael Carruth, former World champion Steve Collins and the late and great Tim O’Sullivan who enjoyed many days in the park erecting plaques to Cork’s boxing greats from the past.
Pride of place will go to a statue of Jack McAuliffe, Cork’s only world champion who left these shores 150 years ago and will now live on forever on Leeside.
The sympathies of the Cork Board have been extended to the O’Dea family following the recent death of Oliver O’Dea who was the founding member of the Ilen River Boxing club in Skibbereen. A tribute to his outstanding work will follow in the coming weeks. May he rest in peace.