THEY’RE used to slugging it out over customers, but now Newcastle West’s publicans have decided to step into the ring and knock the stuffing out of each other for real.
This Friday night, a packed house of 750 people will cram into the Courtenay Lodge Hotel for the first ever ‘Battle of the Publicans’ white collar boxing competition. The event, which is the brainchild of local publican Gearoid Whelan, will raise money for this year’s ‘Knights of WestFest’ festival, which takes place in September.
Gearoid said that what started off as a whimsical suggestion quickly captured the imagination of the town. “It started out when we just put a bit up on the Facebook page, looking for people to give us ideas for fundraisers for WestFest. Someone wrote up ‘why don’t you get Johnny Fitzgerald and Gearoid Whelan to have a fight?’.
“It was only a laugh, but the idea kind of took off. We got a few more lads involved, and it turned into a full on white collar boxing night. It’s not just publicans, we’ve roped in a few lads from town, and the rugby club. We’ve 750 tickets sold – a total sell out. We could have sold another 500 if we had the room.”
For the past six weeks, the budding boxers have been training under the tutelage of Gavin Healy and Patrick Wilmott of Rathkeale Boxing Club. They have also taken to the internet with a number of humorous parody videos, in which competitors such as Kevin ‘Racenight’ O’Shea, ‘Smokin’ Joe Lee and Johnny ‘The Corner Crusher’ Fitzgerald train and talk trash ahead of Friday’s bout.
Among the other publicans taking part in a jam-packed card are Brian ‘Little Bang’ Casey, Kevin Daly, Seamus Cleary and Wayne and Robbie Cronin, as well as a number of other local contenders such as Sean Berkery, Karl Hayes, Tommy Kelleher and the reigning Knight of Desmond, Donal Egan.
The white collar boxing event has started to crank up the excitement ahead of the ‘Knights of WestFest’ event, which returns this year from September 12-16. Following on from the success of last year’s inaugural event, which resurrected Newcastle West’s historic Knights of Desmond festival, this year will once again feature a host of live music and entertainment. Headlining this year’s festival will be The Saw Doctors, with performances by Richie Kavanagh and local bands also lined up.
Alongside the ‘Knights of WestFest’ this year will be the ‘Taste of WestFest’ food festival, from September 15-16, which will see a ‘food village’ created in the Demesne, and live demonstrations from Michelin star chef Ross Lewis.