Cork Ex-Boxers do great work on the ground looking after their own

Leeside group have promoted the sport and former boxers for the past 49 years
Cork Ex-Boxers do great work on the ground looking after their own

JJ Murphy, Cork Ex-Boxers Association, making a presentation to Christina Desmond to mark her participation in the Youth Olympics at a ceremony in Bishop Lucey Park honouring all Cork Boxing Olympians.  Picture: Doug Minihane

NEXT year the Cork Ex-Boxers Association will celebrate their golden Jubilee to mark their foundation in 1972.

Following their formation, their charter specified that they were set up as a benevolent support group to assist former boxers who had fallen on hard times and to promote boxing in the southern region.

From time to time, their activities had seen them clash with the Cork County Board. 

This created an ambiguity and a lack of trust and hostility, which did little to serve the promotion of Cork boxing.

Many will contend that it was not as bad as that, but all will agree that for long periods an uneasy strain existed between CEBA and the County Board.

While this was happening the Cork boxing family was split, and the sport suffered as a consequence.

Many Leesiders lost interest in boxing and the local media almost lost its appetite to provide adequate coverage with the exception of occasional reports on Championships.

This lack of media continuity created uncertainty and deprived Cork boxing followers of regular updates, ultimately leading to the sport attempting to survive almost in the dark.

However, about 10 years ago, several changes took place on the ground floor of Cork boxing.

Mick O'Brien set out to develop his unique role within the sport when he was elected PRO for three units at the same time. These included his club, the Loughmahon BC, the Cork Ex-Boxers and the Cork County Board.

He immediately created calm, understanding and respect amongst all groups. Following this, each group knew where they stood, and overnight mutual respect was acknowledged by all, with each group working in harmony to support the other.

A united Cork boxing then went on to enjoy 10 years of growth, success and media coverage.

The Cork Ex Boxers then celebrated their 40th anniversary, and twelve months later, Willie Leary, then President, resigned on health grounds.

At this juncture, CEBA saw an opportunity to review its activities and become more proactive. 

They began by changing the colours of their blazers from traditional green to blue and designed a new crest and tie.

This distinguished themselves from the Cork County Board's green blazers. 

Founder member Tim O'Sullivan was elected President for the third time. He held this post for eight years up until his death last October.

The CEBA also introduced a change in the organisation structure. They created the post of Chairman for the first time.

Following a widespread discussion on the election of its first Chairman, a decision was reached by consensus, and JJ Murphy was elected the inaugural Chairman, a position he holds to the present day.

JJ immediately set about making his mark and worked well with the County Board during their Centenary celebrations in 2014.

The Board organised a very successful dinner dance which was a sell-out with over 400 attuning including all members of CEBA. For their part, the Cork Ex-Boxers organised a significant celebration at Bishop Lucey Park. 

That day will linger long in the memory as the park was festooned with bunting. The Cork, the Olympic and the Irish flags provided a magnificent backdrop to the presentation stages.

And the Butter Exchange Band created a brilliant atmosphere for those in attendance.

A plaque naming all Olympians from Cork who had represented Ireland since 1924 was erected on the famous boxing wall. 

One hundred balloons representing the Cork and Irish colours were released into the midday air.

The attendance included the Lord Mayor of Cork, Olympians Kieran Joyce, Paul Buttimer and Michel Roche, with a family member representing every Cork Olympian going back to 1924.

Each was presented with a Waterford Crystal glass bowl. 

The attendance also included the IABA Officer Board, the then Irish head coach Billy Walsh, uniformed members of the Garda, Navy and Army with the keynote speaker being the now Taoiseach Michael Martin.

The event was captured by RTÉ and TG4 and featured in news bulletins. 

This was a great day of harmony for the Cork Ex Boxers and the Cork County Board.

IT was a marvellous day for Cork boxing as the people of Cork both witnessed and acknowledged a proud day for the sport on Leeside.

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