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Lords of the Ring

by Jimmy Rhatigan

GOD bless and save them both.

The unofficial Lord Mayor of Paulstown, king of local pugilism Ollie O’Neill and Jimmy Walsh, boxing guru of Bridge Street, Callan were joined at the hip.

They devoted every spare minute of their time, and much more, to the boxing clubs they loved. 

The friends, both of whom were talented boxers were inseparable, united by mutual loyalty fostered by an innate friendship that was born out of a fountain of admiration that prospered and was akin to a cradle to the grave relationship encouraged by love of the same sport.

The common denominator of the inseparable lifetime friends was the art of amateur boxing to which Ollie devoted his life and Jimmy, at age 91 continues to shower on Callan Boxing Club, his spiritual home for decades.

For our Lords of the Ring the popular sport has for decades been the dynamic duo’s pride and joy, a passion second only to their beloved families.

There was always mutual respect between the pair both of whom championed fair play and sporting ethics.

Sadly, a great friendship was fractured with the passing of 63 years old Ollie, father of Paulstown Boxing who would have been 64 next August.

Ollie, a champion of the ring in his early years was used to winning with courage, character and excellent boxing skills.

But despite a gallant fight to beat illness Ollie’s most important battle was to prove to be his last. He fought the good fight but alas it wasn’t to be. He refused to throw in the towel but sadly it was time to say goodbye.

The one he desperately wanted to win was to prove a bridge too far and to the grief of his wife Carmel; proud boxing sons Darren, Aidan and Daniel, Ollie passed away peacefully.

That his funeral was akin to a State burial was no surprise. Ollie, a true gentleman was hugely popular and highly respected not only in his own club Paulstown BC which continued to thrive under his stewardship but throughout the regional and national boxing clubs.

A member of a proud boxing family, Ollie always enjoyed the support of his loving wife Carmel who was forever by his side.

That his sons Darren, Aidan and Daniel were top class boxers really pleased Ollie, the undisputed father of local boxing.

Darren was perhaps the better known pugilist and was hugely successful but brilliant fighters too were his battling brothers; all three boys were adored by dad Ollie who delighted in their ring escapades.

A peripheral interest when it came to any comparisons with boxing, Ollie also gave unselfishly of himself as a referee of Gaelic Games and was regarded as a top class official.

Ollie’s remains reposed at Hehir’s Funeral Home in St Canice’s Parish in Kilkenny City before removal to his beloved Kellymount, Paulstown home town.

Aptly, his huge funeral cortege set out from Paulstown Boxing Club to the local Church of the Assumption after which burial was at the New Cemetery following Requiem Mass.

Paulstown Boxing Club will always be a wonderful legacy to a man who unselfishly devoted himself to a club with which he was in love a club which with the high standards set by Ollie will forever and a day continue to be among Ireland’s finest.

Ollie may be gone from us, but his name will never die.

He is survived by his wife and sons; brothers Andrew, Jim and Joe; sisters Bernie, Teresa, Margaret and Angela; daughters-in-law Alison, Sinead and Niamh; grandchildren Jack, Mia and Ada; nephews and nieces.

Ollie will rest in peace knowing that his lifelong friend Jimmy Walsh will pray for him every day for as long as he has a breath in his body.

Genuine friends never part. They only take a break.

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