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16 November 2006 Edition

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The Matt Treacy Column

Global hegemony beckons for Dublin and Ardfert

Dublin did not win an All Ireland (other than Junior camogie) this year but we do have the European superbantamweight boxing champion in Bernard Dunne from Neilstown, Clondalkin. Oh yes, I can already hear the smart boys down the back making snide remarks about the Dubs and boxing.

Bernard is a great supporter of the Dubs and the footballers reciprocated last Saturday when they turned up at the Point to lend their support. Earning in the process only the second biggest cheer of the night.

Of course it has not been uncommon for Dubs in the past to combine football and boxing (not to mention drinking and boxing and dancing and boxing and politics and boxing and even poetry and boxing) but the two sports have also existed separately in the city for many generations.

A favourite spot for us as kids was Donnelly's Hollow in the Curragh where Dan Donnelly beat Londoner George Cooper in 1815 to win the 'British' title. There are huge footprints there which are said to have been left by Donnelly after eleven rounds of bare fisted savagery at the end of which Cooper, an ancestor of the great Henry of the 1960s, lay battered to a bloody pulp. 

Donnelly, from Townsend Street, was Dublin's first international sporting hero and many other working class Dubs took up the sport over succeeding decades. We were taken with it as kids having been inspired by our great non-Dub hero Muhammad Ali. We may also have been influenced by our observation that one of the essential skills in overcoming the likes of Offaly and Wexford and Laois on the football field seemed to be an intimate knowledge of the 'sweet science.'

I loved the training. The boxing, not so much. As Borat might say. As someone else once said, boxing is fine but being boxed is another thing and I was generally on the other end. Actually it wasn't too bad if you retained enough self-composure to balance the present pain of having your ears boxed against the future kudos for being a stand up guy. Indeed if there is one thing kids respect more than someone who can hand out a good beating it is someone who stoically endures serial hammerings.

The week after my first ignominious official bout as a ten year old I turned back up to training at the Greenhills club which was run by Michael Carruth's father Austin, and another chap we, not inaccurately, called Killer. I was singled out for mention for my bravery in having tried to get back into the ring after the end of the fight, after being declared the unanimous loser. My eagerness to return to the fray, however, had less to do with courage and more to the fact that I didn't realise that the fight was over.

Years later in Portlaoise I was proud to watch Michael, who back then had been one of fierce and indistinguishable triplets, win the Olympic Gold Medal in the welterweight division. The only Irishman ever to do so. And in doing so he joined Dave Foran, Paul Bealin and Ciaran Walsh of the Dublin footballers, Niall Quinn, initially of the Dub hurlers but then that other game, and Brian Kerr in the pantheon of our parish's sporting heroes.

There was occasional unofficial boxing in Portlaoise but it never got out of hand even in the midst of our frenzied sports which could turn even a normally sedate pastime such as volleyball - which I now loath with a passion equalled only by formula one car racing and Premiership soccer - into a punch up.

I recall one afternoon a bit of a contretemps developing between a diminutive but tough Kerryman and a large and irate Waterfordman over some issue in a basketball match. The Decies man decided that the whole matter needed to be decided on the field of honour, the handball alley. With bare fists in the manner of Dan Donnelly.

However, the Kerryman, a veteran of Cricklewood and Kilburn, was not fazed and declined the invitation to "step into the alley", retorting: "If you're such a big man why don't you bring the handball alley over here." At which point everyone saw the funny side of it and got on with thumping the lugs of one another in that fine non-contact sport.

Last Sunday saw a number of important senior club matches. There were no real surprises other than St. Brigid's of Roscommon beating Crossmolina. Nemo Rangers, Crossmaglen, Errigal Ciarans, Corofin and UCD advanced in football while Ballyhale Shamrocks, Cushendall and Birr overcame doughty opponents in hurling.

Meanwhile Ardfert's march to global hegemony continues. Last Sunday they beat Annascaul to win the Kerry Intermediate title and will be launched again shortly on another quest for Munster and All Ireland glory. Apparently the local TD was spotted celebrating over a few quiet oranges!

O'Donovan Rossa, the Ulster camogie champions, have lodged an appeal against the scheduling of their All Ireland final against St. Lactains of Kilkenny in Portlaoise on Sunday. The Antrim team claim that this is unfair as it is not a properly neutral venue.

And finally on the camogie front congratulations to Louise O'Hara of Erin's Isle (not soup as a certain Fermanagh woman would have it) on becoming Dublin's second ever camogie All Star.

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