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Statue of Achill Boxing Champ to be unveiled

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Statue to be unveiled to Achill emigrant boxing champion


Anton McNulty

antonmcnulty@mayonews.ie

A STATUE of the former World Featherweight Boxing Champion, Johnny Kilbane will be unveiled by his great-grandson, Kevin O’Toole, in Achill over the weekend.
The unveiling ceremony will take place this Saturday, June 9 and is expected to be one of the highlights of the Johnny Kilbane Weekend which runs from Thursday, June 7 until Sunday, June 10.
The statue, which was specially commissioned by renowned artist, Philip Noonan, will be unveiled at 1.30pm at Patten’s Bar, Derreens. Kevin O’Toole and his family have travelled from Cleveland to be part of the celebrations which are honouring the centenary of Johnny Kilbane becoming the World Boxing Champion in 1912.
Kilbane’s father was born on Achill Beg and emigrated to Cleveland in the late 19th century where his son Johnny was born. Following a tough upbringing, Johnny took up boxing and rose through the ranks to become World Boxing Champion in February 1912 by defeating reigning champion Abe Atell over 15 rounds in California.
On his arrival home to Cleveland, Kilbane was greeted by a crowd of 200,000 on St Patrick’s Day and one hundred years on, he is still regarded as one of the city’s sporting greats.
As well as the unveiling of the statue of Johnny Kilbane, Kevin O’Toole and his family will also travel to the ancestral home of Johnny’s father on Achill Beg where he will also unveil a special plaque. A similar event took place in Cleveland earlier this year where a plaque was unveiled at the house where he lived in the city and the area was renamed Kilbane Town in his honour.
To continue on with the boxing theme of the weekend, a 16 bout Boxing Tournament presented by the Geesala Boxing Club will take place in Óstán Oileán Acla this Friday night, June 8, starting at 8.30pm.
The weekend’s celebrations are also an opportunity to organise a Kilbane Clan gathering with members of the Kilbane family invited to help recreate the Kilbane family tree. The celebrations get under way on Thursday night, June 7 in Patten’s Bar with a traditional welcome home for the returning Kilbane clan.
From 9.30pm onwards, guests will be treated to performances by the excellent Scoil Acla musicians, the Straw Boys and if the music lifts them they can also join in the Set Dancing reels. John McNamara has written a unique song about the life of Johnny Kilbane and he has kindly agreed to perform this to start proceedings for the weekend.
On Saturday evening, a social evening celebrating the links between Achill and Cleveland will be held in Óstan Oileán Acla, and on Sunday an open air Mass which will be held at 12 noon at the Kildownet Cemetery followed by a trip to Achillbeg.
Des Kilbane and TG4 will also be filming during the weekend as part of a documentary on Johnny Kilbane which will be released in 2013. All are welcome to attend and further details on the events can be found on www.achilltourism.com

HAVE YOUR SAY email antonmcnulty@mayonews.ie with your comments

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