by mohara on December 9, 2009

Leinster Leader 25th April 1953
Bare-knuckle boxer, Dan (dubbed Sir) Donnelly, Irish champion of 150 years ago and hero of a storied bout against the Englishman, G. Cooper, near Athgarvan, was once again the central figure in the Hollow to which he gave his name when, on Sunday last, the Kilcullen Tostal Committee rolled back the years to present a pageant of the famous fight which sent Irish cheers thundering across the Curragh plains on a December day in 1815;
On Sunday too, there was lusty cheering for Sir Dan, but it was mixed with the laughter of the thousands of spectators which filled the Hollow and its surroundings to witness the pageant and displays of wrestling, judo, and boxing bouts which followed.
The cheers for “Donnelly” (in reality, J. Berney of Kilcullen) came from his “official” supporters the members of the local Gaelic Football club, suitably attired in a variety of old-fashioned costumes. And right lustily did they cheer, wave shillelaghs (the fellow who carried an alder branch must have never heard of a good old black thorn!) and toss tattered cawbeens to the skies when their champion floored the “Englishman” in the eleventh round.
                                          It was hard luck on army man
                                          Kevin McCourt that his cause
                                          Was so hopeless from the outset
                                          Yet one couldn’t play around
                                          with history – and Cooper had
                                          to lose.
Some racing folk present made bold to mutter “objection” but they subsided quickly before the scowls and threatening “kippeens” (average thickness four inches) wielded by the jubilant supporters of “Sir Dan”
The fight was tough while it lasted with the seconds and supporters giving and taking as much as the principals. As chief aides to the boxers, Tommy Byrne and John Ffrench went whole heartedly into the affray – a little too much so, perhaps, for the the blacksmith caught one wallop that had a little more force than fun in it!
Even “Miss Kelly” (C. Whelan, Kilcullen, behind the disguise) could not be restrained and, faithful to the records of the fight, jumped into the arena to bet her fortune on Donnelly. Perhaps her exuberant father “Captain Kelly” (Gerry Kelly of Kilcullen) used a sight too much force in rescuing the “lady” from the mob; she certainly looked slightly the worse for wear after the incident.
But it was all right good fun which the big crowd fully enjoyed and heartily applauded. One had to appreciate the amount of toil and trouble taken to place the show, simple as it seemed, before the public; its success was gratifying to Jim Byrne, junior, and his band of willing workers, the Kilcullen Boxing Committee and helpers particularly the Commanding Officer and military authorities at the Curragh.
The very large attendance saw first a parade of those participating headed by the Narraghmore Pipers Band; the re-enacting of the Donnelly-Cooper fight; wrestling bouts a judo display and some genuine boxing by representatives of local and Dublin clubs, the boxing tournament being promoted by the Kildare County Board.
Portions of the display were filmed and recording made by Radio Eireann.
Details of the wrestling, judo and boxing bouts will be found on the sports page
Bouts at Donnelly’s Hollow.
One of the bouts at the Donnelly’s Hollow tournament on Sunday last was the Flyweight meeting of Joe Cox (Droichead Nua) and Pte. G. Byrne (Collins). Cox, a points winner, showed fine offensive spirit against a clever opponent and it was the ability of the local boy to carry the fight to Byrne which merited him a popular verdict.
H. Peacocke (Kilcullen) put up a good show against Irish champion W. Duggan; the visitor punches very solidly and came on top in the last round.
                                          There was a great set-to
                                          between J. McKenna (Kilcullen)
                                          and Pte. O’Leary (Army Champ-
                                          ion, Collins) in the light heavy-
                                          weight class – McKenna stood
                                          up to some heavy punishment
                                          but was always able to shake
                                          his opponent in counter-attack.
In the last round a great rally by McKenna resulted in O’Leary wilting and the Kilcullen lad was definitely superior when the bout ended.
                                          Fly – J. Cox (Droichead Nua) bt.
Pte. G. Byrne (Collins).
 Bantam – Pte. Harvey (Collins)
bt. H. Peacocke (Kilcullen).
 Light-Heavyweight – J. Mc Ken-
na (Kilcullen) bt. Pte. O’Leary
 Wrestling bouts results as
 Feather G. Larkin (Apollo) bt.
S. Moore (Hercules) by straight fall.
 Middle – J. Vard (Spartan ) bt.
D. Vekins (Apollo)
 Heavy – G. Martina (Spartan) bt.
D. Kelly (Apollo) on pts.
Judo exhibitions were given by
Members of the Irish Judokwai
A great deal of the organisation work fell on the shoulders of Lieut. C.J. Russell, actively associated with the promoting Kilcullen Boxing Club for many years, was a very busy man for the weeks prior to the big event and the large success achieved was due in no small part to his unsparing efforts.
Note: Accompanying photo too poor to reproduce.

The Leinster Leader of 25th April 1953 reports on how the Kilcullen Tostal Committee rolled back the years to present at Donnelly’s Hollow a pageant of the famous fight which sent Irish cheers thundering across the Curragh plains on a December day in 1815

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