ON Saturday night last, the European boxing achievements of Katie O'Keeffe were celebrated by the people of Kanturk.
Following a parade to the town square led by a garda escort and the Millstreet pipe band, the young athlete, flanked by her coaches, was warmly greeted by a crowd close to 1,000 people who gave her a tumultuous welcome as she approached the podium.
This was a remarkable turnout by the local community and richly deserved for an athlete who is a multi-nation champion and who is a European medalist for a third time.
The stage for this event was the plinth adjacent to Kelly's bar and lounge.
Here, a magnificent banner adorned the walls, proudly proclaiming the international success of Katie who is the boxing pride of the barony of Duhallow.
Every generation of town folk was represented in the attendance and were delighted to share in her success.
The town was buzzing, and the atmosphere was electric as the music blazed to compliment the occasion.
People had gathered from outside Kanturk for the occasion, in addition to all local sporting organisations, to pay tribute to an athlete who had scaled the heights of international success.
The Millstreet pipe band then entertained the large gathering prior to the commencement of the official celebrations.
The first speaker was her coach Jim McConville.
He said: "The Kanturk Boxing Club is very proud of what Katie has achieved over the last number of years.
"She had brought great success to the club and to the town."
He praised her parents for supporting her through her career and thanked all those who had encouraged her along the way.
McConville expressed his gratitude to Kelly's Bar and the many local sponsors who contributed to the homecoming for Katie.
He also thanked the County Boxing Board for their attendance and acknowledged JJ Murphy, Chairman of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association and Conal Thomas, President of the Cork Boxing Fraternity.
McConville then called on Mick O'Brien to address the attendance on behalf of the County Board.
O'Brien began by congratulating Katie in her hometown.
He said it was both an honour and privilege for him to make the presentation on behalf of the club.
O'Brien said that over his six years as President of the Board, he had been there to share the vast majority of Katie's triumphs.
During a riveting and uplifting speech, O'Brien reminded the gathering that in 1932 another gathering assembled in Kanturk.
This was to honour the famed athlete Dr Pat O'Callaghan, who returned from the Olympic Games as a gold medalist.
"However," O'Brien added, "we are here tonight to acknowledge Katie's triple European success."
These comments were met with prolonged cheering and applause.
O'Brien added that three week s ago the Taoiseach Michael Martin was loud in his praise of Katie's achievements during his speech at the Cork Ex-Boxers Golden Jubilee dinner.
At that function, Mr Martin said that Katie's remarkable success was also a credit to her club coaches Jim McConville and Vancs O'Connell.
On the night, Kate was a special guest at that dinner and to mark her latest podium finish the Taoiseach presented her with the Paddy Martin Champ of Champions cup.
Among the boxing dignitaries at last Saturday night's celebrations were JJ Murphy and Conal Thomas.
Murphy said Katie was a class athlete who had displayed commitment, dedication and determination in abundance, adding she has tremendous boxing skills and has a bright future with the best yet to come.
Conal Thomas, who will be in New York next Saturday night to lead Gary O'Sullivan into the ring for his WBA middleweight title shot, said he was amazed to see the huge crowd that turned out to welcome Katie home and warmly congratulated her on her European success.
The final speaker on the night was Katie's grandfather, 86-year-old Jack O'Keeffe.
He began by declaring that he was a proud GAA man but quickly added, "the first thing I do every Thursday morning is buy the Echo and immediately turn to the boxing page.
"I enjoy reading the great boxing stories from the past, and tonight I am proud to be the grandfather of this fine young boxer and athlete," he said.
"I want to thank everybody who turned out here to honour Katie and I want to thank God that I am still here to be part of it all."
On behalf of all in the Kanturk club, Mick O'Brien then made the presentation to a delighted young athlete.
As she lifted the trophy, she was greeted with the loudest cheer of the evening which signalled the commencement of a great night of celebration.