Cork and Munster boxing stalwart Billy O'Donovan will be greatly missed by all

As the hearse approached the church doors, guards of honour were provided by members of the Cork County Board and members of the Cork Ex Boxers Association.
Cork and Munster boxing stalwart Billy O'Donovan will be greatly missed by all

The late Tim O'Sullivan, President of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association presenting Billy O'Donovan of Leeside Lough BC with a special award to honour his years of dedicated service to Cork Boxing. Picture: Doug Minihane

LAST Saturday, the great Cork and Munster boxing stalwart Billy O'Donovan was laid to rest.

Affectionately known as Billy the Boss, he was admired and respected throughout the Irish boxing landscape.

Billy made a huge contribution to the promotion of the sport and always gave his best during his 43 years of active service as an administrator.

This was evidenced by the huge attendance that turned out to pay their last respects.

As the hearse approached the church doors, guards of honour were provided by members of the Cork County Board and members of the Cork Ex Boxers Association.

This was the ultimate accolade from the Cork boxing family to one of their own, and Billy O'Donovan always took pride in wearing his green IABA blazer at all official functions.

From a very young age, Billy was always attracted to boxing. 

Living on Cork's Northside, the big three sports were hurling, football and boxing.

A few years ago, during an evening to celebrate his 79th birthday, Billy recalled that in 1959 he ran from the Fever hospital steps, which were located adjacent the Murphy's brewery in Blackpool, and running all the way out to Spring Lane to join the Glen Boxing Club.

Billy warmly reflected on those nights and said: "Many of my friends were boxing with the Glen and I wished to be a boxer also."

The late Billy O’Donovan pictured ringside at his beloved Leeside Lough BC training facility in the Lough Community Centre. Picture: Doug Minihane
The late Billy O’Donovan pictured ringside at his beloved Leeside Lough BC training facility in the Lough Community Centre. Picture: Doug Minihane

He recalled being welcomed to the club by Paddy The Champ Martin, who was a coach at the unit. 

However, Billy was small in stature, and during sparring, he was outclassed by many taller boys.

He retired from boxing and took up football. 

Many years later, while working on Cork's docklands, Billy was invited to join the committee of Leeside BC.

That club was run at that time by Paddy Kavanagh, the Casey brothers and Alan Walsh. 

In 1975 Billy was an active member of that progressive club.

They operated out of rooms in Browne Street, which today forms part of the St Paul's Street shopping plaza.

Later the club moved to premises they built themselves at Dalton's Avenue just off Cork's famous Coal Quay. 

However, after a couple of years, complications arose at this premises and the club relocated to a location around the Barracks.

A couple of years later, Billy felt the club needed a more permanent base. 

He successfully negotiated the use of part of the premises within the Lough Community Centre in Greenmount.

Here, they re-established the club and changed their name to Leeside Lough BC. 

The club began to flourish and won many County, Munster and National titles.

Billy also arranged a room in that centre to facilitate Cork County Board meetings for many years.

As an administrator, Billy served the Munster Council as Registrar and he gave long service to the Cork board, where he held the posts of Secretary, Vice President and President over many years.

Billy took particular pride in organising the IABA National Juvenile Championships at Cork's City Hall in 1985.

Mick Brien, speaking on behalf of the County Board, said: "Billy gave his life to boxing, leaving a legacy of sterling service to club, county and province and will always be fondly remembered as an outstanding ambassador for the sport."

Former President of the Cork Board and the Munster Council Dan O'Connell worked alongside Billy for many years. 

Cork Ex Boxers Golden Jubilee Dinner - Billy ‘The Boss’ O’Donovan of Leeside Lough BC pictured with his family at the CEBA Golden Jubilee Dinner at the Rochestown Park Hotel. Picture: Doug Minihane
Cork Ex Boxers Golden Jubilee Dinner - Billy ‘The Boss’ O’Donovan of Leeside Lough BC pictured with his family at the CEBA Golden Jubilee Dinner at the Rochestown Park Hotel. Picture: Doug Minihane

In a tribute to his former colleague, Dan said: "Billy's commitment to his club Leeside Lough and his community is legendary.

"This work was acknowledged where he was honoured as the Cork Indoor Sports Personality of 2002.

Dan added: "He worked tirelessly for many years, and his contribution to the success of the Cork boxing revival in the 1990s, 1980s, and 1970s was substantial.

"Billy will be remembered for many things, but what stood out for me was his total commitment to amateur boxing and the thousands of hours he gave to organising the Cork juvenile leagues and Championships. 

"He was an inspiration to all and will be sadly missed."

Six weeks ago, Billy's contribution to boxing was acknowledged by the Cork Ex Boxers Association at their golden jubilee banquet.

Surrounded by his family and old boxing friends, Billy was proud of his contribution. 

This was a timely and fitting tribute to a man who gave a lifetime of service. 

Amongst the many who shook hands with him on the night was An Taoiseach Michael Martin, who was guest of honour.

Billy told friends later that evening, "when I came into boxing, I was welcomed by Paddy Martin, and for the service and the enjoyment the sport gave me, I shook the hand tonight of his son Michael Martin, the Taoiseach."

On behalf of the IABA, President Dom O'Rourke extended the sympathy of the Association to the O'Donovan family.

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