Friday, May 13, 1994

Manchester Irish (1)

Some of the young boxers from the local Boxing Club in Athy travelled to Manchester last weekend at the invitation of the Kildare Association based in that city. The Boxing Tournament between St. Michael's, Athy, and a Manchester selection saw the Athy boys emerging victorious with John Paul Brennan of Greenhills winning the trophy for the best boxer. Tommy Sheehan, John Donovan, Pat Phelan and Jim Philips, all members of St. Michael's Boxing Club, will remember their trip to Manchester for many years.

The Kildare Association in Manchester . owes much to its Chairperson Eileen Brock, formerly Eileen O'Neill of Foxhill, who ably assisted by her husband John has brought together the County Kildare people living in that city. The Tournament held in the Grove, owned by Mayo man Michael Costello, himself a generous supporter of the Kildare Association was attended by a large crowd. Athy was particularly well represented. Brendan Hickey, now fifteen years out of Ireland and formerly of St. Joseph's Terrace, provided generous sponsorship for the Tournament. He is a very successful businessman in Manchester, employing almost 50 people in his heavy machinery business . His brother Willie was also there to cheer on the Athy lads, having taken a night off from his own Public House, The Royal Oak, Openshaw, which he has been running for two and a half years. The entire Athy contingent later returned to the Royal Oak to round off the night in style. With the guitar playing of Jimmy Aspel, nephew of Paddy Aspel from Kilcullen, the revellers did not leave the Royal Oak until well into the morning.

Another sponsor in attendance was Mary Lewis, formerly Mary "Babs" O'Brien of Canal Side, Athy, who with her husband Bill is very involved with the Bradford Irish Music Association. Mary teaches set dancing and recalls attending many feiseanna while a young girl in Athy with Freddie Farrell and his sister Mary and Maisie Dooley.

Also at the Grove was Philip Berry, formerly of Skerries, who arrived in Manchester three years ago. The ladies were very much to the fore and Sarah Allen, formerly Sarah Bolger of Plewman's Terrace, was there as was Bridie McCarron, formerly Bridie Mulpeter of Kildare Town. Bridie is P.R.O. of the Kildare Association and is married to the singer Paul McCarron, a Donegal man, who with his Cill Dara group is well known in Lancashire.

Another of the organisers on the night was Tony Connolly, formerly of Kilberry, who apart from being President of the Kildare Association also manages St. Edward's Club in Manchester. Tommy who came to England in 1945 played football for Rheban and returns to South Kildare a couple of times a year.

Two Carbury men who could not understand why the local Kildare papers were not available in the Irish World Heritage Centre in Manchester were Michael Melia and Larry Keenan. Larry, who was accompanied by his wife Babs is Treasurer of the Kildare Association. Apparently the Heritage Centre which played host to President Mary Robinson last month gets all the Irish provincial newspapers except the Nationalist and the Leinster Leader. What about it Mr. Editors?

I was to visit the Centre on Sunday where I was to meet again many members of the Kildare Association including Joan Sparrow, formerly Joan Dunne of the National Stud in Kildare. Her father was the late Bill Dunne, who as head lad at the Stud, looked after the great horse Tulyar before he was sold to the Americans. The house in which Joan lived as a young girl now houses the Equestrian Museum in the National Stud. She remembered Jim Nelson, later a publican in Leinster Street, Athy, and his good friend P.J. Prendergast, in the days before he achieved fame as a horse trainer, visiting the stud on many occasions. Joan, whose husband died some years ago, is an active member of the Kildare Association.

The Irish World Heritage Centre is located on Queens Road, Manchester. A fine building providing bar, dining and function room facilities it is soon to be replaced by one of the most prestigious developments yet seen in Manchester. The new complex to be located on a twelve acre site will incorporate a major trade centre, providing a showcase for Irish produce and crafts.

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