CRIME SCENE The National Boxing Stadium where Mayo people were caught up in the shooting incident last Friday night.
Mayo boxers caught up in gangland feud shooting
Edwin McGreal and Austin Garvin
Members of the Mayo boxing fraternity were among those gripped in sheer panic as shots rang out at the National Stadium in Dublin on Friday night last.
The attack, linked to the ongoing Hutch-Kinahan gangland feud, began right outside the front entrance of the National Stadium on the South Circular Road.
Two men were subsequently shot nearby, but neither sustained life-threatening injuries.
Inside, three Mayo boxers were warming up, preparing to take to the ring for their respective national finals.
There also was Peter Mullen, trainer and President of St Anne’s Boxing Club in Westport. He was ringside with one of the club’s boxers, Oweny McDonagh, who was about to fight for the U-18 91kg+ title when a surge of people started running from the front of the hall.
“There was a tsunami of people running from the front towards the back and shouting ‘Get behind the seats’. It was unbelievable,” Peter Mullen told The Mayo News.
The people that were running in were shouting ‘shots, guns’. There was a lot of pushing and shoving as people rushed to the back of the stadium. I’m lucky I’m so big or else I would have been knocked to the ground and trampled on,” he said.
Amidst the chaos, with lots of young children present, parents became separated from their children, with everyone being told to lie down behind seats in the stadium.
“Everyone got split up and there was panic for at least ten minutes. Kids got split from their parents and a lot of kids and a lot of mothers were crying, worried about where their parents or their children were.
“Oweny was getting ready to go for his fight when it started and then he was very worried because his parents and brothers and sisters were all there, including the youngest, a two-year-old baby, and he was split from them.
“It was frightening. People thought the shooter was in the foyer, and might be coming into the stadium itself but it turned out the shooting was all outside on the street,” recalls Mullen.
Also ringside was Claremorris Boxing Club stalwart Joe Charles, who was a judge on the night. The U-18 69kg clash between Nadine Dermody (Raging Bull) and Elice Elliott (South Meath) was about to get underway.
“I was one of the judges waiting for the bout to commence when I heard the sound of gunfire. It was so loud that it was hard to judge whether it was inside or outside the Stadium,” Charles told The Mayo News.
“I boxed in the Senior Championships at the Stadium in 1964 and I have participated in over 100 fights without ever being floored. This is the first time I was ever on my knees since I became involved in boxing,” the Claremorris veteran stated.
Charles stated that there were between 600 and 700 in the stadium at the time.
The other Mayo boxers who were ringside preparing for their finals were Adam Dempsey from Achill Boxing Club and Alannah Nolan from Ballyhaunis Boxing Club. All three fought on Saturday morning instead.
‘Roaring and crying’
Leading Mayo boxing official Joe Hennigan, acting in his role as Vice-President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, said it was ‘a very sad night for amateur boxing’.
“All the crowd started running out towards the exit doors; kids roaring and crying, mothers looking for their kids,” he said.
“It was a very, very sad night for amateur boxing. We are not into that type of stuff. We work voluntarily; trying to keep kids off the street. And for something like this to happen; it was a sad night for boxing.
“And I hope whatever happened last night that it is going to end; and not happen again. But we are continuing on with the boxing because this kind of (violence) is not going to stop us promoting the sport we love,” said Killala-based Hennigan.
The shooting started directly outside the National Stadium at around 9.45pm on Friday night. A member of the Hutch family was in action at the stadium on Saturday, and there was heightened security at the weekend as a result.
A man in his 40s, believed to be a Hutch associate known to gardaí, fled on foot from the National Stadium. He was shot in the foot as he ran towards the nearby Griffith College.
The second man, a non-national in his 20s who is attending university in Ireland and who was an innocent bystander, was also shot, suffering a bullet wound to his hand.
Two burnt-out cars were later found in north Dublin.
Gardaí sealed off the area and were carrying out searches. An area around the National Stadium was still cordoned off on Saturday afternoon.
The Hutch-Kinahan feud has claimed 14 lives since September 2015. Gardaí investigating the incident say they are treating it as attempted murder.