Friday 28 July 2017

Kevin 'Boxer' Moran leading the fight against flood waters

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran mans the pumps at The Strand in Athlone. Photo: Frank McGrath
Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran mans the pumps at The Strand in Athlone. Photo: Frank McGrath
John Downing

John Downing

The 'Boxer' has been leading a rotating team of 60 people in Athlone for the past fortnight, fighting the flood waters of the biggest river in the country.

"We pump the water out - then it comes right back in again. So far we're winning, only one home has been flooded, and we're determined to continue the fight," Kevin 'Boxer' Moran told the Irish Independent.

Right now in Athlone, all the flood battlers are heroes. But Boxer Moran is the heroes' hero as he continues to lead the struggle.

"Some people think it's nearly over. I wish it was - but it's not. I think it will be into next week at least before we know. People are under pressure, Christmas is coming and they have work and family commitments," he says.

But the prize for all Athlone's flood fighters is people's homes remaining unsullied by the foul river water. Mr Moran, a taximan and local councillor, grew up beside the Shannon in Athlone.

From childhood, he stood on its banks in all seasons and weathers, often wielding his fishing rod.

A life-long community activist, and a member of various sports clubs and the Tidy Towns, this father of two teenagers has also been involved in two other efforts, in 2007 and 2009, to keep Shannon flood waters at bay.

"You learn things from flood to flood," he says.

"The main thing is the importance of the pump and the need to have people who know how to manage a pump. If the pump goes down, as it did this morning for a time, there's real fear until you can get it going again," he adds.

The Boxer is not really a boxer at all. The nickname dates from an underage football match in Coosan, on the edge of Athlone, during which one of his pals was attacked by a member of the other team. Before he knew what he was doing, young Kevin had thumped the rival player and stretched him on the ground.

"The team trainer, who was new to us, said: 'I see we have a boxer in our ranks.' Somehow, the name just stuck even though I never 'boxed' before or since," he recalls.

He is among dozens of politicians, local and national of all parties and none, who have spent hours lending encouragement, empathy and leadership to the various battles against flood waters in many parts of the country.

The remarkable thing about the Athlone situation is that it has thus far largely succeeded, against enormous odds, in a continuing battle which would suck all the energy out of an average person.

Kevin 'Boxer' Moran is by now very much a local hero, though he shrugs off such suggestions and insists that it is a community effort. He also notes that help has come from further afield.

"I got a call from a man in Sligo offering a pump. We went and got it and put it to work. So far it has done the trick and saved one home in the frontline from flooding."

Irish Independent

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