Cork boxing loses another great character and friend with the passing of Gerry Heaphy

Cork boxing loses another great character and friend with the passing of Gerry Heaphy

The late Gerry Heaphy

FORMER Glen Boxing Club boxer and proud son of Cork's Northside, Gerry Heaphy, was laid to rest recently aged 75.

Despite the current Covid-19 restrictions many friends and workmates assembled outside the Church of the Ascension to pay a final tribute to a man who was widely respected. Cork boxing provided a Guard of Honour.

This group included JJ Murphy, Chairman of the Cork Ex Boxers Association, Tommy Kelleher who represented the Cork County Board, Donie Crean, who was a team-mate of Gerry's on the first Cork boxing team of 1961, Noel Kelleher, who was his sparring partner at the Glen BC, and Donie Murphy, who represented the Fr Horgan's BC.

Gerry was reared on Spangle Hill, known today as Farranree. 

He resided in a house adjacent to the church which majestically overlooks the suburb of Blackpool.

He came from a family of ten and had five sisters and four brothers. 

He was educated at Blackpool National School, where, amongst his teachers, was the well-known Baggy Lynch, brother of the late Taoiseach Jack Lynch.

While at school, Gerry was attracted to the Glen boxing club which was a major academy in Cork boxing with hundreds of athletes representing the unit since its foundation in 1916. Gerry was quickly identified as a natural talent with great potential.

The small ring at the Glen was centred in the main room and had a magnificent fireplace where a big fire was constantly going during the many winter nights of training.

At the club, Gerry's sparring partners were the late All-Ireland champion Finbarr O'Leary and fellow All-Ireland titlist from that era Noel Kelleher who recently recalled some of those training sessions.

A young Gerry Heaphy with his wife Noreen
A young Gerry Heaphy with his wife Noreen

He said: "I remember how strong a boxer Gerry was. He would always take part in three-handers with myself and Finbarr, and when either of us would step out, he would keep going with the other.

"He kept coming forward, and he always waited to land the big punch. 

"If it connected, which it often did, it was known to Gerry as a haymaker and a fast goodnight to his opponent."

Gerry won three County titles and one Munster Championship but lost out on the opportunity for All-Ireland glory through a number of injuries. He later joined the army and won a Defence Forces Irish title.

He was selected on the first Cork boxing team who took on and beat Dublin at the Parochial Hall on Leeside in January 1961. 

That night he gave an exhibition of boxing, as witnessed by fellow team-mate Donie Crean.

"Gerry was as tough as they come. He was very light on his feet and very fast. 

"He had a great boxing brain and was super fit," said Crean.

Five years ago, that historic Cork team were guests at a Cork Boxing Breakfast. 

Much of the research, groundwork and contacting for the occasion was done by JJ Murphy.

There were ten boxers on the Cork team, but unfortunately, Gerry missed the event because he was ill and in hospital.

Tom Kelleher, a big friend of his, accepted the award on his behalf.

That Cork team that met Dublin in 1961 were: Jim McDonell (Glen BC), Tony Arnold (Fr Horgan's BC), Dave Monaghan (Fr Horgan's BC), Finbarr O'Leary (Glen BC), DJ McCarthy (CIE BC), Donie Crean (Sunnyside BC), Gerry Heaphy (Glen BC), Paddy Gough (Fr Horgan's BC), Tony Duncliffe (CIE BC) and John O'Reilly (Sunnyside BC).

Having left the army after five years, Gerry spent the rest of his working life on Cork's docks. 

He met and married Noreen and reared seven children from their home on the Gurranabraher Road.

"My father never spoke to any of the family about his boxing career until the award arrived from the 1961 team reunion a couple of years ago," said his son, Ger, who never boxed but who was an accomplished basketball player.

However, his mother had located three or four boxing certificates. 

Ger added that his father was a simple man who loved fishing and hunting who liked to meet up with his friends for a pint and who boasted that he ate the best chips in Cork from Tasty Snacks.

Gerry will be sadly missed by his wife and family. 

Old boxing buddies of the late Gerry Heaphy from L to R JJ Murphy Cork ex boxers, Tommy Kelleher Glen BC, Donie Crean Sunnyside BC, Noel Kelleher, Dean Sexton's BC and Donie Murphy Glen BC who provided a guard of honour at his funeral.
Old boxing buddies of the late Gerry Heaphy from L to R JJ Murphy Cork ex boxers, Tommy Kelleher Glen BC, Donie Crean Sunnyside BC, Noel Kelleher, Dean Sexton's BC and Donie Murphy Glen BC who provided a guard of honour at his funeral.

Equally, he will never be forgotten by the Cork boxing family whom he started out with as a young boy and who were there for him at the end to say farewell and sleep gently old friend.

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