By Jay Mwamba
Twelve young fighters from the Omagh Boys and Girls Club in County Tyrone arrive in New York today for a show with a metropolitan area amateur boxing side at the Elks Club in Sunnyside, Queens, tomorrow (Nov. 18) starting at 8 p.m.
The Omagh boxers, who range in age from 12 to 21, will also visit tourist sights in the city and Washington, D.C., including a planned White House tour next Monday. The visit is organized by the New York-based Omagh Relief Fund, which was set up last year to raise money for victims and families of the horrific Omagh bomb blast in August 1998.
Sean Rice, the Fund’s chairman, said they were asked to arrange the trip by David Simmons, an Omagh youth leader and one of the club’s coaches, who wanted to reprise a 1997 visit by another Omagh team.
Rice said the tour was more than about boxing. "The idea is to give the kids a break and a holiday of a lifetime in New York," he remarked.
Fourteen officials, including Gary McGillan, one of the club’s assistant coaches, whose wife, Donna Marie, survived the bombing, will accompany the fighters.
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The Irish Ropes Boxing Club, run by Eddie McCloughlin in Sunnyside, assisted in arranging tomorrow night’s show, while Fr. Jack Ryan of the Mount Marissa Retreat House in Staten Island, will provide accommodation for the visitors in New York.
Former two-time heavyweight boxing champion Tim Witherspoon will present awards to the winners at the show.
The Omagh team includes 12-year-old Paul Barbour, a 73-pounder with a 2-0 record; 17-year-old junior lightweight Andy Murray, whose 55-5 amateur ledger makes him the star of the side, and the 7-15 light heavyweight Kevin Lunny, who at 21 is the oldest member of the squad.
Murray’s likely opponent tomorrow will be New York Golden Gloves champion Fari Diaz, 19, who is one of three Irish Ropes fighters in the Metro side. The other two are Juan Filaberto, who is paired against 17-year-old light welterweight Barry O’Hanlon (10-8), and Irishman Shane Trainer, who tackles light heavyweight Shane O’Hagan, 19 (14-7).
The rest of the Omagh team (ages and records in brackets) comprises: Welterweight Damien O’Hagan (16, 15-10), light heavyweight Paul Heaney (16, 15-10), light welterweight Damien Taggart (17, 6-2), bantamweight Eddie McDonagh (19, 20-15), featherweight Pat McDonagh (19, 1-3), middleweight Darren Donnelly (19, 30-20), and welterweight Jimmy McLynchie (14, 3-0).
Rice will host the visitors at his Irish Rovers bar in Astoria (37-18 28th Ave.) beginning today at 4 p.m. and invited all Omagh and County Tyrone natives in New York to come and welcome the team.
For further information about tomorrow’s boxing show, call Rice at (718) 278-9372. The Elks Club is at 82-10 Queens Blvd. in Elmhurst.