Thanksgiving an ideal day to open
'Opening this boxing club is just as exciting as launching one of my hotels'
Hotelier and former 'Secret Millionaire' John Fitzpatrick spoke to the Argus about his pride in the 'first class' new facility unveiled by O'Hanlon Park boxing club last week.
'A lot of people said to me that it is great to see it opening on Thanksgiving, the American holiday, so I'm really delighted.'
He recalled first visiting the club when he took part in the popular RTE series in 2011.
'There was really something about the boxing club, when I came to see it. My ignorance showed in that I just thought a boxing club was about going to win trophies. But what Paul (Taaffe) was doing here was giving these kids a focus, keeping them off the street.'
He said he had never forgotten how he met one young man who told him that before joining the boxing club he was 'just having around the streets with a bunch of fellas and no real goal.'
'All that changed for him once he joined the boxing club.'
The millionaire hotelier said he 'always felt embarrassed' about 'only being able to buy the club some boxing gear' because they had been the last group he met to distribute money given to him on the RTE series.
'I couldn't believe the premises they were using. It was just like a shed really. It had a dark lane way leading up to it and I was worried about kids going to it at night. I just knew I had to try and do something for them.'
He said he came across the building (former Toymaster) and thought it would be an ideal fit for the boxing club.
'It has taken us a long time to get here, four or five years at this stage.' He added 'People are thanking me, but it's Paul and all his gang around him who did all the hard work. Yes we put a lot of money into it, but the whole community here really got behind it, and if they didn't put in money, they put in their time and energy.'
'I'm so glad to hand it over to them. It's not John Fitzpatrick's club, it's their club, and they can help it develop for future generations.'
He said he was 'thrilled' to be celebrating the launch with the community, and told of the good wishes which had come from across the world.
'I got a lovely message from Liam Neeson, he was a boxer himself when he was younger, so when he heard I was involved with this project, he wanted to wish the whole club the very best.'