“A gift from heaven”

THE O’Hanlon Park Boxing Club were among three local organisations to benefit from last night’s airing of the ‘Secret Millionaire’ programme on RTÉ One with head coach Paul Taaffe describing it as a “gift from heaven.”

THE O’Hanlon Park Boxing Club were among three local organisations to benefit from last night’s airing of the ‘Secret Millionaire’ programme on RTÉ One with head coach Paul Taaffe describing it as a “gift from heaven.”

The show, which attracted an audience of hundreds of thousands, seen New York hotelier Jim Fitzpatrick visit the club, as well as other projects in Cox’s Demesne and Muirhevnamor, using the guise of a documentary film maker.

However, little did the groups know that he was actually monitoring the work they did for the local community and considering what donation to give to them.

Speaking to The Dundalk Democrat about the programme, O’Hanlon Park Boxing Club head coach Paul, said he was shocked when he learned of Mr Fitzpatrick’s true identity.

“I was approached in January by Ronan Muirthile, a producer with Animo Communications, with a view to making a documentary, part of which would include filming in the boxing gym.

“I was told that a native Irishman called John Doe was coming home from New York to make a documentary on how volunteers were helping others in society during the recession. It was only after all the filming had finished that he came back to my house on a Monday and then pulled out a cheque for e2,000 and said who he was.

“I was really taken aback. We had only taken part in the documentary to get the club across to people because we want to better it continuously but to receive that sort of money was like a gift from heaven,” said Paul.

O’Hanlon Park Boxing Club was founded by Paul six years ago and now has over 80 members aged between seven and 70.

The funding provided by John has been spent on rig-outs, vests and togs as well as head gear and sparring gloves.

Described as a “Godsend”, the cash has boosted the facilities on offer at the community club but they have now turned their attentions to getting themselves a new venue. Currently operating out of St Nicholas’ Hall, which they rent from St Patrick’s, the club meet on Monday, Thursday and Sunday but Paul would like to see more regular gatherings and said in order for that to happen, they need their own stand-alone venue.

“The current hall is great but the size of it means we’re almost at capacity now. It also takes two hours to set it up and then we’ve to take everything down at the end of the night as well and we’re destroying the equipment as a result. If we got the use of somewhere in the Demesne area it would be like a dream come true for us.”

Paul, from St Patrick’s Terrace, established O’Hanlon Park Boxing six years ago and since then they have gone on to win Louth, Leinster and Irish titles.

He insists the club is something for the community rather than just a boxing hall and revealed that he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Liam Mone in inspiring young people to better themselves.

“I met Liam when I was six and I know the inspiration he had on my life. The time he gave up for the likes of me was unreal. He kept boxing going in this town when no one else would and I’ve always remembered that.”

Paul said that John seen the talent that was on view during his visit to Dundalk and was very impressed by it.

“He was very interested in the children. He was particularly impressed by Aoibhinn Murphy. She’s only eight or nine but she’s a real Katie Taylor in the making.

“I think the whole experience had an effect on him.

“We’ll certainly never forget what he did for us. Now we hope that the publicity we get from the show will help us get a new hall. We’re not looking for hundreds or thousands of euro, just a place for our boxers.

“For me, it’s all aobut the people. We’ve a lot unemployed in the area with nowhere to go and this gives them a place to be themselves and build up their confidence.”

For information on the O’Hanlon Park Boxing Club email ohanlonparkboxingclub@gmail.com or call Paul anytime on 087-4139803.