THE year 2020 will live long in the memory of many for various reasons.
In the world of Cork boxing, the sport lost a legend last May with the sad passing of Maurice Walsh, the famed St Colman's BC coach.
Maurice was a man who was known, respected and loved throughout Irish boxing.
He was a man who was always looking to improve facilities for boxers and clubs.
Despite the problematic restrictions imposed around the time of his death because of the Covid-19 pandemic, people still gathered from far and wide to pay their respects.
Many travelled to Shanagarry to provide a Guard of Honour outside the church and along the streets. Such was the respect afforded to the man, his wife Margaret and all members of the Walsh family.
During his travels throughout the country with many boxing teams, numerous stories were recalled and retold at his funeral. For many years Maurice was affectionately referred to as "The Yank."
However, over the course of time, he grew tired of this title and on one occasion at the National Stadium many years ago he was engaged in a conversation with a young man who called him the Yank.
Maurice immediately replied, "Son, what age are you?" The young man told him he was 23. And with all the command of an old schoolmaster, Maurice continued. "Well, if you were around this country twice as long as your age suggests, I'd still be around here longer. "
Baffled and confused, the young man stood with his mouth open and immediately got the message when Maurice said to him.
"Young man, if you're looking for Yanks, I suggest you go out to the airport. They come in and go out all day long."
The message was received loud and clear, and both men became friends for life.
Maurice was a native of Providence, USA and was a sports and fitness fanatic who played American football as a professional with the famed New Year York Giants.
After he arrived in Ireland, he admitted that he knew little or nothing about boxing. He began his local involvement in sports with Russell Rovers who were based in Shanagarry.
At the invitation of Fr. Bertie Troy, who set up the St Colman's BC, Maurice joined the club. In the beginning, he was renowned for telling tales of how naive he was whilst getting to know the ropes.
However, he learned quickly. Among his newfound friends were Albie Murphy, the legendary Sunnyside BC coach.
He also became friends with Cuba's Nicolas Cruz who helped guide Michael Carruth to Olympic gold in 1992.
At the time of Maurice Walsh's death, St Colman's boasted more than 40 Irish titles. Billy Walsh, son of Maurice, claimed the club's first belt at City Hall in Cork in the Irish Juvenile Championships in 1985.
Walsh junior was a trailblazer for the club after winning a total of eight Irish crowns. He was quickly joined on the top of the podium by his brothers Kevin, and Pa. Kevin secured nine Irish titles, and Pa bagged five and a European underage silver medal.
Collectively, the Walsh brothers won 22 Irish titles. The brothers also represented their country and home and abroad on many occasions.
The last winner of an Elite title for the St Colman's BC club was Dr Eanna Falvey in 2002.
Falvey was the last Cork male boxer - Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan's BC/Garda BC) is the current Elite female welterweight champion - to claim an Elite belt until last year when Thomas McCarthy retrospectively secured an Elite title.
Maurice Walsh was also a tough disciplinarian as a coach but equally admired as a man of knowledge.
Meanwhile, every year in the month of January the St Colman's BC is renowned for its annual tournament, and each year the club produced a bumper program for the event.
Most east Cork businesses supported the work that Maurice was doing with the club.
For the last ten years, he invited the President of the Cork Board, Michael O'Brien, down and gave him brief instructions before sending him in to address the packed venue.
"Get into the ring, get that crowd going, inspire them and make sure to raise the roof clapping before you leave the ring," Maurice would advise.
Following the death of Maurice Walsh, his lifelong friend Dan O'Connell approached the family to erect a plaque in his memory on the Boxing Wall in Bishop Lucey Park.
This ceremony will take place later this year, and the plaque will be unveiled by Dan O'Connell. He is also a club member, a former Munster Board and Munster Council President and one of the most respected boxing ambassadors Ireland has ever produced.