Bernard O'Neill, Ireland's' leading
boxing writer' speaks to WBAN
by Michael O'Neill
December 23, 2016
(DEC 23) As a freelance
sports journalist, one often takes for granted the various Press
Releases received from Sporting organisations throughout the
world, and indeed we often analyse them to see if they are just
promoting a particular product or personality, be they amateur
Others just boast of their own
achievements, some of which do not match the actual facts so as
the 2016 amateur boxing year draws to a close, it is an
opportune moment to praise someone who works as hard as any, and
harder than most to satisfy the needs of a sport – boxing -
which has seen good times and bad in 2016 whether in Ireland, in
Great Britain, the United States or elsewhere in the World.
Too often, tributes appear only if someone is critically
injured, seriously ill or dead when they cannot even read any
such tribute but this award for the P.R.O of the year in the
Irish & International boxing world goes to a man who is very
much ‘alive and kicking’ and whose news and results service as a
“one man band ” is often picked up not only by sports websites
but also by the world’s largest news agencies as well as the
I refer of course to Limerick and IABA P.R.O, Bernard O’Neill
(no relation I hasten to add!). He’s contributed to all of the
above media over the past 9 years as IABA PRO and indeed also to
Limerick FC’s football stories, good and bad days alike, all
four seasons plus limited rugby coverage. Indeed for several
years before that Bernard has supplied copy to boxing
publications around the world including WBAN. Being a PRO for an
‘amateur’ organisation is no easy life as one rarely if ever
gets to a tournament outside one’s home country.
Since our good friends at the IABA have never sent him on an
International assignment , not even to London 2012 he has to
wait patiently for IABA Team Managers or Coaches to phone in
results and quotes or alternatively ‘hassle them’ for
information as deadlines approach to ensure that IABA clubs and
fans of the sport have the very latest news on the IABA website
and Social Media long before even the National Media and
TV/Radio channels broadcast their early news. Bernard’s work is
not dissimilar to that of other National Federations and their
P.R teams. Not all Team Managers remember to make that daily
call, some even have their mobiles switched off.
There is though one vast difference . Whenever there is a boxing
tournament be it at home or anywhere in the World, he is “on the
ball”, and ready for action, 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week from
his Annacotty ‘home-office’ in Limerick. Most other NF PRO’s
work strictly Monday/Friday with rare coverage outside 0900/1700
except during Olympics or Major Confederation championships.
Time differences between the various continents are such that in
the early hours he may be in touch with China, cover a
tournament in Italy during the day and be at the National
Stadium for an Irish Youth or Junior championships until late
When I wondered did Bernard first started writing about sport,
initially association football? With a large smile on his face
he tells us:
“I first became involved in writing about football with the
Evening Echo in 1999. The Cork Evening Echo was selling into
Limerick at the time. I covered local football for the Echo for
John McHale, who later became Sports Editor. I played with a few
local clubs in Limerick, but for some reason Real Madrid never
approached me with an offer of Euros 300,000 a week to team up
with the Galacticos at the Bernabeu. Strange that!”
How did you become involved with the IABA as their boxing
“I began updating the media, posting information for the
website, social media and more a ‘life support system’ for a
‘break boxing story’, as someone once said to me!
Easy work then Bernard? “During big tournaments it can easily
stretch into a 12-hours day,7 days a week. Then there is the
preparation for the next day’s bouts, obtaining pictures and all
that goes with the job. Overall the National media are fair.
I’m going to say that we do not get enough space, except on the
boxing sites, but then again I’ll always say that, as do PRO’s
of other sports.
Over the last nine years I have had between seven and nine
thousand pieces published and have posted circa 10,000 pieces on
the various IABA websites inc social media.
Various Irish Team Managers and Coaches including Zuar Antia
,John Conlan,Eddie Bolger and of course Billy Walsh and Team
Managers Anna Moore,Peter O’Donnell, Al Morris, Stephen
Connolly,Liam Brereton and many more have been an enormous help
as I cannot afford to travel to these International tournaments
which I cover for a number of National media,reaching a sizeable
audience of hundreds of thousands of people.
At the end of the day it’s all about our incredible boxers. Us
keyboard tappers are sitting ‘outside the ring’ while our young
boxers are performing magnificently inside it in a notoriously
competitive and unforgiving sport. Us keyboard tappers are ‘just
the singers not the song’. The boxers are the real heroes.
Your favourite players in the modern era? “I’ll stick with
George Best as my favourite footballer, call me old fashioned.
I’ve yet to see anyone as naturally talented as Best. John Giles
as well - Giles and the great Leeds United side were playing ‘
total football’ years before the Dutch laid claim to the
concept. The great Leeds United team packed decent ‘right hooks’
as well, especially Norman Hunter! I heard there is some guy in
Spain called Messi who is ‘handy enough’ too!
Your favourite boxers, Bernard? “I would go with Sugar Ray
Robinson as my favourite Pro! In terms of consistency – eighteen
major International titles speak for itself – Katie Taylor, now
a Pro herself, is the greatest female boxer of all time and the
most successful Irish athlete ever.
I think that the greatest performance from an Irish male boxer,
AIBA AOB or Pro, in the last decade, was John Joe Nevin’s
Olympic semi-final victory over Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez the then
number one in the World. That was sheer class, with a Mullingar
shuffle thrown in for good measure.
We’ve had some great ‘amateurs’ in Ireland over many years and
several others of considerable potential for the future both
male and female so despite the disappointments of Rio 2016 we
can look forward with confidence to the future”.
On the subject of Referees & Judges, Bernard is delighted at the
recent AIBA changes. At the time of our interview, before the
recent rule changes were announced, he said :
“I firmly believe that all five judges should be scored and not
just three. There are times when the random choice of a computer
– in selecting the scoring judges – is resulting in the superior
boxing losing. That’s been disappointing and the cause of much
anguish for boxers, coaches and National Federations of all
countries alike, not just Ireland.
The fact that there are only three weight classes for women at
the Olympics also has to be addressed urgently. Given the
enormous success of female boxing on its debut at London 2012,
it was assumed that there would be an extra two weight classes
for Rio 2016, but it’s still stuck at three. Recently though
there has been promises of two more for Tokyo. That would be a
start towards TRUE equality.”
As we concluded the interview came news from the AIBA that two
additional weights would be included at the Asian Confederation
championships in 2017 (48 kg and 57kg) as well as at the 2018
Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. That as Bernard says is but
one small step forward -no more than that.
WBAN thanks all the P.R.O’s ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ who
have submitted news and Press Releases since our first issue
including Bernard and those from other countries as well as from
USOC and USA Boxing.
AIBA’s Qualification system for Youth Olympics 2018 is here:
And Katie Taylor’s record 18 International title achievements