IF YOU didn’t know Noel Kehoe well and you were asked to guess what sport was close to his heart, you may not have hit any jackpot.
Noel who has just passed away was a kind, gentle, friendly and softly spoken gentleman that you might not associate with the hustle and bustle, jabs, hooks, uppercuts, knockout punches and frantic fisticuffs.
If you guessed pugilism you would have been on the money.
An aficionado of amateur boxing, he gave most of his active life as a coach as he promoted and worked tirelessly for amateur boxing for which he had real passion.
From Clara Boxing Club, of which he was a founder member and on to Marble City Boxing Club in Kilkenny City, he gave countless years to organizing boxing for adults and young boys and girls as he channeled his energy through the County Board area of Laois, Kilkenny and Carlow.
He cherished the years he spent in Clara BC and was proud to work hard for Marble City BC that he championed from its infant years in Kilkenny’s Good Shepherd Centre to its present HQ at the old Kilkenny Swimming Pool, John’s Quay.
WINNING WAS NOT THE BE ALL
He valued his time but had no problem sharing it as treasurer of the aforementioned County Board and always enjoyed the support of his beloved wife Dolores, popularly Dolie, an Irish Countrywomen’s Association stalwart, sons Ross and Willie-John, former boxers and now devoted coaches.
He was so happy when a fighter from his club had his or her arm hoisted as a Leinster or Irish champion.
But while winning was important to Noel, it was not the be all and end all.
His mission was to encourage fighters of all levels to enjoy what some may call the ‘sweet science’.
As a young journalist, I was privileged to work closely for years with Noel who was then PR guru for Clara BC.
His appetite for the sport was admirable, matched only by his appreciation for the coverage that my then employers, John Kerry Keane’s Kilkenny People Newspaper, gave to his chosen leisure pursuit.
He was wonderfully polite, grateful and hugely interesting to converse with, not only about boxing, but about other sports and current affairs.
He was very proud of his family association with Custer’s Last Stand, aka The Battle of the Little Bighorn.
INSPIRED BY SITTING BULL
The confrontation was on the banks of the Little Bighorn tributary river in Montana, USA, in which a local warrior called Myles Keogh was General Custer’s right hand man.
The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho who were led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, and had been inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull.
The US 7th Cavalry, a force of 700 men, suffered a major defeat while commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer.
Myles Keogh, a son of Carlow with Kilkenny connections, lost his life at the battle in 1876.
Clifden House, Clara was once home to Bridie, Josie and Marian Keogh, aunts of military man Myles
That house has for generations been home to the Kehoe family. In earlier times it had been bequeathed to Myles Keogh who had planned to come here to farm, but, sadly, he lost his life the year he was expected home.
Noel and his family became the proud protectors of Myles Keogh memorabilia including a hat from the Papal States Army and a gold medal.
The Kehoe/Keogh connection meant a lot to Noel.
BOXING WAS IN HIS VEINS
I can remember well the enthusiasm he showed when recounting the tale of the man of war who was so close to spending his years in the same bailiwick as the Kehoe family.
We chatted for hours and the war story, with pictures, appeared in The ‘People.
Inevitably the conversation turned to boxing before Noel drove home to Clara House.
Boxing was in his veins and he stood by the sport until his final hours in Blackrock Clinic on Thursday.
If St Peter is a boxing fan, he has some treat in store.
Noel will no doubt fill him in on his years as the ringmaster of an intriguing sport that is governed by the Queensbury Rules.
May he rest in peace.
Noel is survived by his wife, sons, daughter Margaret, brother Desmond, daughters-in-law Sarah and Irene, sons-in-law Gerry, grandchildren Noel, Margaret, Garry, Kevin, Jim, Cormac, Niall, Aoife and Darragh, nephews and nieces.
He was predeceased by his brother Vincent and sister Carmel.
Requiem Mass is in St Colman’s Church, Clara tomorrow, Sunday at noon and interment follows at adjoining cemetery.
Noel is a respected member of a coaching trinity, along with Jimmy Walsh of Callan Boxing Club and Ollie O’Neill of Paulstown Boxing Club that will be revered forever and a day in the folklore of local boxing.