By Patrick Markey
A year ago, Gary McGillion had planned an August wedding with his girlfriend Donna-Marie Keyes.
But a week before the ceremony their lives were torn apart by the Real IRA bomb that destroyed Omagh’s main street, killed 29 people and left hundreds more coping with serious injuries. McGillion and Keyes were among those severely burned in the bombing.
But next week, McGillion and Keyes, now married, will take their first trip outside Ireland when they join the Omagh Boys and Girls Club in a visit to New York, where the club’s boxing team will square off against a squad of fighters from Queens.
For the Omagh couple, it’s the honeymoon they never had while recovering from their injuries.
"Both of us sat down and discussed it. We thought it’s like we could have a honeymoon. It’s a chance to get up and put our lives together," McGillion said by telephone this week from the County Tyrone club.
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"It’s really a life-builder to help the lads but also to see something for ourselves of the world," he said.
Twelve boxers, ranging in age from 12 to 20 years old, will fight a Tournament Night against the Irish Ropes Club team at the Elks Club in Queens on Thursday, Nov. 18. The boxers, their families and friends on the visit will stay in Staten Island before the fights and also visit Washington for a tour of Congress and the White House, said Paddy McMahon, one of the Omagh club directors.
For many of the club members it’s a chance of a lifetime, McGillion said.
"They feel lucky to be getting into the ring in America and representing their country over there," he said. The Omagh team, McGillion said, were intent on taking home their share of winner’s medals.
"The Americans are never easy. But we think our lads are up for the battle."