ON Thursday, Tommy Kelleher the famed Glen Boxing Club coach will celebrate his 80th birthday.
Born on Cork’s Northside on the 12th January 1943, Tommy has been linked to boxing for seventy years.
For a man of his age, he epitomes the essence of fitness and continues daily to stride with pace and confidence as he puts Glen boxers through their paces at Irelands longest established amateur Boxing Club.
The Irish Amateur Boxing Association IABA, was founded in 1911, three years later the Cork County Board was established in 1914.
Two years later the Glen Boxing Club was formed at a meeting in a small house at the Cross Lane in Blackpool in 1916.
The Kelleher brothers all joined the Glen Boxing Club, Tommy’s brothers John and Noel went on to enjoy national success with the Club.
Ironically John Kelleher joined the Club in 1948 along with another great Club stalwart John Martin.
John Kelleher subsequently went on to enjoy a very successful career as a professional boxer under the pseudo name of Sean Leahy.
In 1953, the ten years old, Tommy Kelleher was amongst his brothers and his school boy friends skipping and sparing in the Glen Boxing Club which was a small terraced house in Spring Lane, nesting under the railway tracks, and in close proximity to the picturesque natural beauty of Goulding’s Glen.
In the past week, Kelleher has been in the Glen Boxing Club on five nights, this is testimony to a man who is fully dedicated and committed to the Club. During his illustrious career as a coach he must have worked with a few thousand boxers.
From the outset, his attraction to coaching was greater than his ambition to become a boxer.
From his first day in the Club Tommy was intrigued with the Glen trainers, however, he admits to being very conscious of his surrounds. He recalls meeting Paddy ‘The Champ’ Martin, Jim Corbett, Mossy Condon, Timmy Mc Namee, John Morrison and the legendary John Kid Cronin who later came to prominence with many of Cork’s Senior All Ireland winning Hurling and Football teams.
While the Clubhouse was very small, the Committee had a great rota in place. This very organized Club gave each boxer his individual time as part of a very structured Club.
Much of the outstanding administrative work, was due to John Birmingham who later became Lord Mayor of Cork and founder of Cork Polio and the Cope Foundation.
The Glen Boxing Club was a proud sporting organization and earned its mantle of respect amongst all sport throughout the entire country. When the new City Hall opened in 1936, the Glen Boxing Club was the first Club to introduce a boxing tournament at the iconic venue, when they packed out the Concert Hall on 24th January 1938.
Young Kelleher was very aware of the Club pedigree and high standards.
The Glen produced boxers and athletes and thugs were not tolerated by the Club. They remained in Spring Lane for just over 50 years. For a number of years Tommy boxed with the Glen and enjoyed success at County and Province levels.
Kelleher gave his all for the Club and always win or lose left everything in the ring.
In 1976 the Glen Hurlers defeated Blackrock in the first County final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh. Up to that year five Glen County Winning Captain’s had won County and Munster Championships with the Glen Boxing Club.
Just before half time in that game, Denis Coughlan received a very severe head injury and bleed a lot. He was shifted to St Finbarr’s Hospital. At that time, Tom Kelleher following a construction site injury, was a patient in a general ward.
When the game in Pairc Ui Chaoimh was over, Jack Lynch, Christy Ring and Kid Cronin arrived in the general ward in the hospital looking for Coughlan.
‘The Kid’ led the delegation, and as they walked he spotted Tommy Kelleher in the bed, and as his former coach he turned to Ring and Lynch and said “There’s a man who shed buckets of blood for the Glen”, Tommy was beaming as he got the thumbs up from two of the most famous hurlers Cork has ever produced.
In the history of Cork Boxing folklore, Tommy will rate as one of the Greatest Boxing Coaches on Leeside.
He trained multiple All Ireland Winners including his own son Michael, who was an outstanding exponent of the sport.
In his career he traveled the World with many Irish International Teams which featured many Greats such as Irish Olympic Champion Michael Carruth. He also coached at Brian Dillon’s BC and now defunct but very successful Ballyvolane BC
However, Tommy Kelleher stated that the last ten years was the most enjoyable period in his long sporting career. He said, boxing in Cork came back to life. People wanted to know about the sport and the Echo did a great job.
Tommy said the sport gave him many great moments, but he will cherish his Civic Reception from the Lord Mayor at City Hall in 2018, and his trip as a boxing coach to San Francisco last September.
Happy Birthday Mr Cork Boxing.