ON Saturday morning last the outstanding boxing achievements of two proud northsiders was magnificently celebrated in the heartland of a Cork southside suburb.
The event was a Cork Boxing Breakfast organized by the Cork Ex-Boxers Association CEBA, as part of their year-long Golden Jubilee Celebrations. The venue was the dining lounge at the well-known and long-established Harp Bar, in Pouladuff.
The awardees were two of the most famous names in the history of Cork Boxing.
Tom Kelleher of the Glen Boxing Club was presented with the very prestigious CEBA Golden Jubilee Hall of Fame award, simultaneously Dan O’Connell was universally acknowledged for his illustrious effort to successfully re-establish Amateur Boxing on Leeside in 1972 when the sport was perilously in grave danger of extinction- fifty years ago.
The current County Boxing Board were delighted with the opportunity to publicly acknowledge Dan.
The guest list included many of Cork's boxing legends such as individual history makers Don Murray, Gordon Joyce, Gary Spike O’Sullivan and Mike Kelleher.
The current Cork Boxing Club of the year Brian Dillon’s B.C. was represented by the Clubs President Denis Desmond. The breakfast host was Aine McLoughlin who has the iconic history-making distinction of being the first woman to join the Cork Ex-Boxers Association.
The full Cork County Boxing Officer Board attended, led by President Billy O’Sullivan, Vice-President Michael O’Brien, Secretary John Wiseman, Treasurer Nicola Murphy and Registrar Louise Forde, CEBA were led by their Chairman Mr. John J. Murphy, President-designate Derry McCarthy, Vice-President Billy Deasy and Committee members.
The chairman of Ireland’s longest-established boxing club the Glen BC Antony Connolly was present accompanied by club Treasurer Clodagh Mackey Pelan, and also there was the President of the Cork Boxing Fraternity Association, Conal Thomas.
The occasion was graced through the attendance of one of Cork's greatest GAA supporters, the devoted Gaelic Games pilgrim Cyril ‘The Bird’ Kavanagh.
The guest of honour was a man who made a fundamental and dynamic contribution to the business sporting and political landscape, of our City and County over many years, the Former Senator and Lord Mayor of Cork Denis 'Dino' Cregan.
Proceedings got underway when the event co-ordinator Michael O’Brien welcomed all to an occasion where he said Cork Boxing was about to honour two great ambassadors who had created a legacy that would stand the test of time.
He then informed the attendance that the CEBA president Paddy McSweeney had completed his two-year term as President, and given his enormous commitment as chairman and head coach to the very successful Spartan Boxing Club, Paddy was stepping back from CEBA to concentrate more on further developing the Turner's Cross-based club.
Many tributes were paid to Paddy in recognition of his tremendous service to the Cork Ex-Boxers Association over many years.
The glorious biographies of Tommy and Dan were then recalled comprehensively, leaving no one in any doubt as to their bona fides as worthy recipients of their accolades.
Much of the emphasis was placed on the last 50 years coinciding with the Golden Jubilee of CEBA.
It was also highlighted that when it all began in 1972, Jack Lynch was Taoiseach and in this year of special celebration 50 years later Micheál Martin is Taoiseach with both politicians having links to boxing and in particular the Glen BC.
The Cork Ex-Boxers Hall of Fame award was presented to Tommy Kelleher by Vice-President Billy Deasy who has given many years of outstanding service to the Association. It was then announced that Derry McCarthy was elected President Designate, taking office on December 1.
The presentation to Dan O’Connell was an appreciation award, fifty years after being elected Secretary of the Cork County Boxing Board. This presentation was appropriately made by the longtime current Board Secretary John Wiseman.
The President of the Board Billy O’Sullivan warmly congratulated the awardees saying their work to promote Cork boxing had become a cornerstone that enormously contributed to the development of the sport in Cork, which today enjoys great success.
Many tributes on the day were paid to both men with Glen Chairman Antony Connolly saying he was delighted that two giants in the development of Cork boxing were honoured, John Wiseman declared both men to be pillars of the Cork boxing community while the incoming President of CEBA Derry McCarthy said he congratulated the two elder statesmen of Cork boxing with each being principled men of highest standard.
It was also a morning of song and story, with Derry McCarthy giving a great rendition of ‘The contender’ and ‘if we only had old Ireland over here’ Cyril Kavanagh blazed the banks and beautiful city, while the guest of honour Dino Cregan in a beautiful monologue spoke gently and then sang ‘Memories of the way we were’ king Dino was back in the heart of the Southside.
God was in his heaven, the Barr’s were back as County Hurling Champions and with a glint in the inward eye as he passionately sang that song memories came flooding back to him as a young boy in 1955, in the lashing rain running all the way from the old Cork athletic grounds, now Pairc Ui Chaoimh up to the Bandon Road and into Mok’s Bar to delightfully declare to all the Barr’s had beaten the Glen to win the County before a record attendance of over 31,000 spectators memories of the way we were.