We were promised entertainment. We were promised value for our buck. We were promised passion, excitement, courage, pride in one’s own place, plus honesty.
We covered the pre-match expectations and ambitions in the composed inches of this paper on the run-up to the ‘Brawl in the Hall’ in the Kilmacow Community hall on Saturday night. We even advocated that a €20 note would give you a night to remember, and God knows we need all of those that we can get these times.
Well, they were hanging out of the rafters - or the bolted girders - that frame the roof of the huge Community Hall in Kilmacow. They came from the four corners - no pun intended - to shout, chant, applaud and encourage their favourites as members of the local GAA clubs, Kilmacow and Mullinavat, donned the 18-ounce gloves, required headgear to fire leather from all angles.
Many were unorthodox, lacking in pure ring craft, as they blasted the bodies and heads of their opponents. As a fund raiser the ‘Brawl’ was different. It proved hugely attractive, and the brave guys who stepped into the ring to help make a few bob for the local club were cheered to the rafters.
Some of the Kilmacow and Mullinavat hurlers/boxers are but a country mile from each others houses, but neighbourliness, and blood relationships were parked as the courageous and fittest from both parishes went to war.
And what a war!
Ali, Frazier, Cooper.....
I have seen Ali and Frazier, Cooper and Clay, John Conteh, McGuigan and many more in action. I have seen some of our greatest amateurs like Caldwell, Gilroy, Socks Byrne, Teidt, Perry, Dowling and Carruth, but the high octane excitement generated in Kilmacow outside of the ring brought the few miserable follicles to attention on the back of my neck.
It was pure theatre, garnished with a smattering of blood-curdling crudeness, a little bit of over the top pulling, frustration, and some bloody noses.
We had the introduction by a well rehearsed yet impressive MC, who really added great lustre to the introductions of the various fighters. In truth, it would be a misrepresentation of the facts, and an affront to the code of the Queensbury Rules to call it boxing, but it was honest, wholesome stuff.
Back to our MC.
His intros were straight from the pages of Caesars Palace on World title fight night.
How he rolled Brendan ‘Bingy Boom Boom’ Maher out brought ear-drum smashing response from the near 1,000 crowd crammed into the venue.
The booming words for Luke ‘Cool Hand’ Harney fractured window panes around the parish when introduced. We had the popular Dinny ‘Stallone’ Butler, managed by Tony Duggan, in action.
In an all Mullinavat bout, we had Andy ‘Aleeeeeeeee’ McGovern facing Paddy ‘The Shepherd’ Jones. Mick ‘Iron Mike’ Malone, managed by Walter Burke, took on Liam ‘The North Narabane Assassin’ Kearns.
The crowd loved it. The cheered to the echo.
The fighters were presented on an ante-stage as they came into the arena, complete with the Tricolour, dry ice and the blasting music. It reminded me of bygone days when pictures of boxers were featured on the national papers with the customary stance, complete with statistics.
The programme on the evening carried all such ingredients to whet people’s interests. Willie O’Toole’s ambitions on a hurling field would be to score a goal, even in training, on his club colleague, and county senior net minder, Richie O’Neill. Dinny Buttler’s favourite hurling memory was shooting crows in Nowlan Park, while Mick Malone wanted to be a fireman.
We got to talking to many.
Former Kilkenny All-Ireland winning captain (twice), Liam Fennelly was thrilled to bits with the venture.
“This is tremendous for both clubs, and for their parishes too,” he thought. “A lot of great work has gone into it, and the fruits of those labours are very evident here. It is innovative, original and great entertainments.
“It just shows you what can be done by GAA clubs when they set their minds to do something worthwhile. I’m enjoyed it to bits.”
The logistics of organising and presenting the venture are quite daunting. While White Collar Boxing promotions make their equipment, and know how available for a pre-determined fee, the clubs fine tooth-combed their respective parishes for support.
The response was amazingly generous, even in these tough times.
“At a committee meeting one night when the lads first muted the idea I was sceptical, and I was not alone in that regard, but it has surpassed every expectation, including convincing the doubting Thomases like myself that it would succeed,” said Rory Williams, Kilmcow club officer and MD of Country Style Foods, a company that does much for employment in the Kilmacow area.
“The entire Kilmacow community united in strength behind the effort. We had a lovely crowd, everyone got value for money. It was a tremendous success,” he finished
Jenna Keogh, a native of Ferrybank, but residing in Kilmacow (getting married in a few weeks) enjoyed the programme. She attended with her friend Caroline Power. They didn’t have a clue what to expect, but they were certainly singing the praises of all concerned about the value for money.
Roar on favourites
“The best night’s craic we have had in a long time,” was the consensus.
When I enquired from Jenna if it was her first experience of boxing, she replied that it was the first officially organised boxing she had ever seen.
“But on a Saturday night in some places you would see plenty of the unofficial variety,” she laughed.
Every hurler from Mullinavat, Kilmacow and all points East and West of Salonica were there. The ’Shock crowd were there in numbers, wondering if a match between themselves and the Shamrocks would work.
They were there to roar on their favourite, Tommy Holden, a Mullinavat man, but according to his manager, the ebullient James O’Shea from Carrickshock “he’s only up at the back of the haggard”.
Holden’s entourage came to ring-side with appropriately endorsed t-shirts, ‘Tommy the Gun Holden’.
The real winners were the crowd in this one, even though Holden got the split decision over Bingy ‘Boom Boom’ Maher, also from Mullinavat. This bout was horse-power.
Being near the winners corner, I heard his manager shouting over the din at the end of the first round to Holden that ‘Boom Boom’ wasn’t laying a glove on him (Holden) to which ‘The Gun’ responded in no uncertain terms to his manager: “Keep an eye on the referee, because there is some b*****d out here hitting me.”
It was great to see such great servants of the Kilmacow and Mullinavat clubs present......Tommy Duggan, Jim Conway, Andy Aylward and a whole raft more were there from Mullinavat; Jim Phelan (Kilmacow) had great fáilte for us, and he was positively bursting with pride at the success of the venture. Willie O’Keeffe, the instigator of the idea, thanked us for our help. He too was thrilled with the outcome.
Every fighter had his own intro music. The place shuddered as ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Another One Bites the Dust’, ‘Thunder Struck’, ‘The Irish Rover’ and ‘Eye of the Tiger’ filled the hall with noise.
The round number cards were paraded around the ring by a delightful, pretty young lady, dressed in a very hot pants. A most impressed young fellow beside me remarked: “Jazus, she’d almost bring you back from the dead.”
I couldn’t disagree. Other local beauties also performed the task, just as attractive, appreciated as much and it all added greatly to the pageant.
To the credit of all of the fighters, it must be said that they showed great courage, great dedication to the cause, and great passion. As Dinny Butler said in the dressing room: “It is very difficult to hit a guy who is your friend, and who went to school with you”. He got a split decision over his friend, Willie O’Toole.
If Maher and Holden brought the house down, the scrap between Luke Harney and Owen Duffy (giving 13 kgs) was a belter. Harney, a southpaw, was amazingly familiar with the rudiments of the boxing game.
He approached the fight like a caged fighter, and the gamy Duffy had to call on all of his courage to survive. It was a great scrap all through.
The final bout of the evening was between Willie ‘The White Ali’ O’Dwyer and a young Denis ‘The Menace’ Scully. The young Scully was giving 10 years to his more seasoned opponent. That did not deter him from taking the fight to the aggressive O’Dwyer.
It was called as a draw. The action had most on the edges of their seats.
Grat, great, great....
We finally, after a terrific night, got to talk to James O’Neill, the PRO of Kilmacow.
“In a word, Barrie, it was great, great, great, bloody great,” he said with a smile as broad as Galway Bay across his face.
“The generosity of our sponsors was outrageously decent and supportive. Both clubs rowed in with gusto behind the venture. I would like to thank all of the fighters for doing what was required, and above all else they were the people who crossed the line for their clubs.
“I would also like to pay a special recognition to the Paulstown boxing club, who just could not have done more to make the effort work. Credit is due to all who willing involved themselves in what for us was a stellar night for the parish, and a great night for both clubs.
“Thanks too to the media outlets, and in particular to yourself, and the Kilkenny People for your help. It was much appreciated”.