The ballroom of the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel was transformed into a Las Vegas style boxing arena for the big showdown between Portlaoise GAA and Portlaoise Rugby Club, last Friday night.
However, despite all the pre-match banter and posturing, it was the GAA club who overcame their rugby opponents by six matches to four.
“We did put a trophy up, but it wasn’t about that,” said Portlaoise GAA’s Vinny Dowling. “It was a fantastic night and it was the first time the two clubs have come together like this.”
Shercules aka Mark Sherlock, and Eoin ‘Sydney’ Browne was one of the best fights of the night, according to Mr Dowling. Meanwhile, the ladies bout between Mohammad or Aisling Gorman, as she is known to her team mates and ‘Fight or Di’ Lawlor representing the rugby club was also a standout encounter.
Vinny Dowling’s highlight of the night was the ‘Brown Bomber’ Liam Stapo Brown versus Paul ‘Killer Driller’ Conroy.
“Shane McManus was the fighter of the night,” he added. In his pre-match profile, Shane ‘Big Mac’ McManus explained that his only previous fighting experience was a few tips he had picked up while on duty on the mean streets at 3am. However, Vinny Dowling said Shane looked like a pro fighter on the night. In the much anticipated battle of the Fennellys, it was younger brother Aidan who came out on top.
As each fighter was introduced and walked out to his or her own specially chosen area, MC Jimmy Keenan kept the crowds entertained with his yarns and jokes.
“The crowd showed great respect to all the boxers, and it was great to see so many stay on to watch Michael O’Reilly,” noted Vinny Dowling.
“It’s been many years since there was a night out that the whole town turned out for, and it was a refreshing boost.”
The fundraiser exceeded both clubs expectations, as huge crowds poured into the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel on Friday night.
“It’s what we were hoping for, but it totally exceeded our expectations for the whole town to turn out,” said Declan Kelly on behalf of Portlaoise Rugby Club. “In the amphitheathre that was the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel, I think a few of the boxers might have got a bit nervous. “But great credit has to go to all those who got into the ring. It’s not easy when you walk out and there are 1,100 people looking at you.
“They have been training for the last three months with Pat Ryan in the boxing club. We had some of the fittest athletes in Portlaoise in the ring last Friday night, and they were shattered after three rounds.”
On behalf of both clubs Mr Kelly paid tribute to all the sponsors, especially the main sponsors, Downey’s Auto Stop. He also thanked the Portlaoise Heritage Hotel for hosting the event, and Dr Siobhan Chidley and Dr Gerry White for doing all the medicals on the boxers.