ON Saturday morning last, The Maple suite at the Rochestown Park Hotel was packed to the rafters with guests attending a special and unique Cork Boxing Breakfast.
The double doors were closed solid as the diners awaited the arrival of the special one.
At seven minutes past ten, the door majestically opened following the passionate and enthusiastic announcement that the most successful international coach in the history of Irish boxing was about to enter as their guest of honour.
Zaur Antia, along with his wife Nona and Irish international and Muskerry boxing club coach Tom Murray who accompanied him received a tumultuous welcome, not only the Banquet hall, but the entire floor erupted.
Such was the volume of noise created by the warmth of the welcome, the expression of Zaur’s face suggested the man was shell shocked as Corkonian boxing supporters clapped, cheered, whistled and waved amidst a prolonged standing ovation, which reflected the sporting gratitude of a city who took full advantage of the opportunity afforded them on a day they will never forget.
Zaur was on Leeside as the guest of the Cork Boxing Fraternity to receive an accolade that was long overdue.
The prestigious and illustrious award was to acknowledge and congratulate him, on being undisputedly the most successful technical and tactical coach in the long and cherished history of Irish International Amateur Boxing.
The MC for the event was Michael O’Brien who lost no time in setting the tone for a morning of extraordinary celebration.
Whilst the morning’s weather outside was wet, dreary and grey, the spirits of all guests were soon lifted through an array of magnificent stories which depicted the majestic achievements of Zaur and a litany of success from Irish boxers who lifted the nation through their medal winning heroics at Olympic, European and World Championships.
The attendance included many coaches from club’s throughout the city and county from the Barretts of Milstreet to the Buckleys of Mallow.
Prior to the presentation to Zaur Antia, and the many tributes associated with this special day, there were four other presentations to mark outstanding contribution of two women and two men who collectively had enhanced the sport of boxing in the Southern Capital.
These awardees were Áine McLaughlin Spartan B.C., Fergal Dennehy Togher B.C., Will Rossall De Courcey B.C. and Katie O’Keefe Kanturk B.C. These presentations on behalf of the CBFA were made by Zaur Antia.
Each of the recipients was accompanied by members of their families and their respective clubs.
This added to the significance of the occasion, on a red letter day for boxing on Leeside.
Áine McLaughlin was acknowledged for many years of outstanding work, on behalf of three clubs, the County Board, The Academies and the “Strictly” floor shows.
She was proudly accompanied by her parents Sandy and Jim Murphy. Fergal Dennehy was honoured for his work as a founder member and secretary of the Togher B.C.
However, the MC informed the attendance that it was the huge volume of unseen work he did on behalf of the board in his capacity as a city councilor and deputy Lord Mayor of Cork which was of paramount importance to the promotion of Cork Boxing.
Will Rossall of “De Courcey” Boxing club was chosen for his continuous hard work to promote and develop the sport in the Ballinaspittle/Kinsale region of the country.
Will was described as an outstanding ambassador for boxing and a worthy recipient of recognition.
He is acknowledged by all as a gentleman and one whose recognition last Saturday morning was warmly welcomed by all.
It was very appropriate that Zaur should also make the final presentation to the record-breaking international and Kanturk boxer Katie O’Keefe. Katie was in the proud company of her parents and her Kanturk coaches Jim McConville and Vance O’Connell.
Katie is the proud holder of multiple national titles and a Cork history-making winner of three European Championship medals.
The function was also attended by guests and personalities from other sports, including the great Brian Dillon’s G.A.A Stewart Donal Lyons, soccer aficionado Jim Ryan, Cyril “The Bird” Kavanagh, baritone Denis Lane, that magnificent stalwart of Cork boxing Conal Thomas and Catriona Twomey of Cork penny dinners, now affectionately known as “Wonder woman”.
In his capacity as president of C.E.B.A, Derry McCarthy wearing his chain of office congratulated Zaur on his achievements on behalf of his colleagues.
Both Cyril Kavanagh and Derry McCarthy provided the attendance with spectacular entertainment which really rocked the hall and was fully enjoyed by all.
Prior to the main event of the morning, the MC thanked the sponsors of the breakfast promotions Tom Murray, Dan O’Connell and Dean Cregan. The man who brought and guided Zaur to Irish boxing was Dan O’Connell. In his magnificent speech, he comprehensively charted the journey in graphic detail and this story will be published in the summer.
Zaur was then presented with a bronze sculpture which was symbolic to his arrival in Ireland.
He received the longest-standing ovation and once again Cork proudly set the standard, bringing the curtain down on a great occasion.
Elsewhere, Congratulations to Christina Desmond on winning another elite title and well done to all Cork boxers.
A full report will be published subsequently.
Next Saturday and Sunday will see the 4, 5 & 6 Boy and Girls Cork County Championships take place in the Northside club in Blackpool.