Truthfully I’m not a boxing fan but on Friday night I watched the Irish senior boxing championships relayed on T.V. from Dublin’s National Boxing Stadium. More specifically I watched one contest, that involving Athy man Roy Sheehan. Roy has been involved with St. Michael’s Boxing Club for many years, during which time he won many national boxing titles and prior to Friday three national senior titles, all at different weight levels. Having given up the sport for a while he was encouraged by St. Michael’s trainer Dom O’Rourke to return to the gym to help John Joe Joyce prepare for the national championships. The rest is history. Roy Sheehan is now the Irish senior champion at 81kg having won his fourth senior title at the boxing stadium last Friday night.
The newly crowned All Ireland champion is no stranger to success in the boxing ring. Apart from his four senior titles he has also won twelve other national boxing titles at different weights and ages since he took up the sport under the guidance of Dom O’Rourke. Eight years ago when he was 22 years old he won a European Senior gold medal but unfortunately lost out on being a member of the Irish Olympic team for that years Beijing Olympic games due to injury.
Boxing has a long history as a sport in Athy. Sidney Minch, while a member of the Dáil, started a boxing club in the 1930s. The club flourished for a number of years but never achieved the success of the current boxing club which in recent years gained the honour of being for a time the most successful club on the island of Ireland. Roy’s championship title is the only senior title won by a St. Michael’s club member this year as his colleague John Joe Joyce lost his 69kg final.
Roy Sheehan’s achievements as a boxer bring with it the accolade of super sportsman. He has reached the pinnacle in his amateur sport and at 30 years of age deserves enormous praise for the dedication and commitment he has displayed in winning his fourth Irish National Senior Title. It is rather a pity that the recent local government re-organisation saw the abolition of our Town Council as undoubtedly Roy’s success would have merited some formal recognition by the town fathers. However, we can all wish Roy every good luck in what I understand will be his attempt to win a 5th senior title next year. If he succeeds he will have achieved something unheard of in Irish amateur boxing – five titles at five different weights.
In the meantime congratulations must also be extended to the members of St. Michael’s Boxing Club who by all accounts have created a boxing club of which the people of Athy can be proud. A special mention must be made of the club’s trainer, Dom O’Rourke, who in recent years combined his duties as a club official and trainer with that of presidency of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. The success of St. Michael’s Boxing Club owes much to the work of Dom and the other officers of the club who can be justly proud of the club’s achievements over the years and of their 2015 Irish champion Roy Sheehan.
Roy Sheehan and St. Michael’s Boxing Club might for future generations be suitable candidates for a project initiated by the Federation of Local History Societies of Ireland and the Federation for Ulster Local Studies called ‘Hidden Gems and Forgotten People’. The purpose of the project is to draw attention to and celebrate some of the lesser known places and buildings in Ireland and the interesting or inspiring individuals whose stories remain untold or forgotten. The two Federations have received submissions from local history societies and private individuals throughout Ireland and a selection of those hidden gems and forgotten people will go on display in the Heritage Centre here in Athy from Monday 9th February.
The project, which is a very worthwhile one, offers an opportunity to showcase forgotten personalities and places of local interest, thereby allowing them to become once again part of our social history. The Hidden Gems and Forgotten People Project is one in which I have been involved for some time and follows on my own efforts over the last 20 years or more to bring to the readers of this column the many forgotten persons and events who contributed to our community over the years, although now forgotten.
The Federation’s Project is an ongoing one and anyone interested in contributing is asked to write a brief description, up to 500 words, of the place or about the life of the person to be considered for inclusion as a hidden gem of forgotten people. If possible a photograph or sketch should accompany the submission and should be sent to Larry Breen, 8 The Paddocks, Naas, Co. Kildare or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.