President Higgins is a great friend to Cork and Irish boxing honouring their past achievements regularly

President Higgins is a great friend to Cork and Irish boxing honouring their past achievements regularly

Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan pictured with President Michael D.Higgins on the occasion of his visit to Aras an Uachtaráin with the WBO International Middleweight Belt. Also included are President Higgins wife, Sabina Higgins, Tim O'Sullivan of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association and Michael O'Brien of the Cork County Boxing Board.

LAST weekend President Michael D. Higgins celebrated his 80th birthday.

To mark this special occasion, Cork Boxing extended a message of congratulations on behalf of all followers of the sport on Leeside.

Apart from his political and cultural interests, our President has profound knowledge and great interest in all sports.

Amongst these boxing has always been very close to his heart. 

On many occasions, long before he became President, he was a frequent visitor to the National Stadium where he was a close friend of Sean Crowley, a Cork man who was Secretary of the IABA for close to 20 years and who passed sadly away only a couple of months ago.

In 2012, the President made his first official visit to the National Stadium. 

It was the night of the National Elite finals and the venue was packed to the rafters.

He was officially welcomed by Sean Crowley, who was accompanied by Jimmy Magee. Following his introduction, the President received a standing ovation before taking his seat for a bumper night of top-class amateur boxing.

This was also a very special year for Irish boxing as less than six months later at the London Olympics, Katie Taylor conquered all to become Ireland second Olympic champion.

In that same year. Gary Spike O'Sullivan became the first Cork man to win a WBO International title. 

The fight was carried live all over the world by Sky Sports.

Following a tough contest with Matthew Hall at Upton Park in London, before a crowd in excess of 40,000, Spike emerged victorious.

As the famed WBO belt was being presented to Spike in the background a huge Irish flag fluttered in the night breeze. 

It was a proud occasion to be Irish.

Amongst those watching on TV was President Michael D Higgins and as head of state he was delighted with the Corkman's victory.

The President subsequently made provision to extend an invitation to the Aras to Spike his family and friends.

As the main picture illustrates, it was an occasion of special significance and joy not only for Spike and his family but for the entire boxing community.

In his address to the group, President Higgins told Spike he had done his county and his country proud, adding that his achievement had given great hope to all young boxers that success is often earned more through perseverance than through opportunity and that the many setbacks suffered on the road to success are very often part of making the dream become a reality.

Following the victory for Spike in London that night, a magnificent photograph captured the joy on his face as he was embraced and congratulated by his coach Paschal Collins.

This photo was subsequently blown up into a massive vinyl reproduction with a caption proclaiming the title of the Whitney Houston song One Moment in Time.

This picture was erected on the wall at the Loughmahon boxing club and was the focal point for hundreds of Cork boxers for over two years as they entered the ring for all County Board League and Championships, which took place at the Loughmahon club from 2012 to 2014.

Following the President's warm congratulations to O'Sullivan, Spike presented him with a Jack McAuliffe gold medal and a copy of the Cork Boxing book Leeside Legends.

The Cork Ex Boxers Association co-founder Tim O'Sullivan was then introduced to the President by the current chief of the County Board Michael O'Brien.

The President said he was honoured to meet the oldest boxing international in the country. Michael D was told how close Tim O'Sullivan came to representing Ireland at the 1948 Olympics.

The President said that it was people like Tim that had helped to make boxing Ireland's most successful Olympic sport.

On behalf of all Michael O'Brien then thanked the President and his wife for the warmth of their welcome and hospitality.

"This is truly a historic occasion and Gary O'Sullivan was the first Cork boxer to be invited to the Aras. 

"It was a proud day for all present and for the pedigree of Cork boxing," said O'Brien.

Meanwhile, last June the Glen BC had been invited to attend the Aras to mark their Centenary and to acknowledge the unit as the oldest boxing club in the country.

However, the Covid-19 virus prevented that. 

In the meantime, confirmation has been received that this visit will be rescheduled and a further chapter linking Cork boxing with President's residence will be gloriously written.

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