The funeral has taken place in Belfast today of Ireland’s first Olympic boxing medallist, John McNally.
John, who contested as a bantamweight, was just 20 when he made it to the final of the 1952 Olympic Games, in Helsinki. John overcame Filipino, Italian, and South Korean opposition in the preliminaries, Quarter Final and Semi Final. He was ultimately beaten by home favourite Pentti Hamalainen on a split decision.
Of his bout, John said ‘It was the last day of the Games and the host nation had not yet won a gold medal, so there was a lot of weight on the Finn’s shoulders to deliver. It came down to the three judges and the British judge gave it to me, while the American and the Austrian gave it to Hamalainen. I was devastated and in floods of tears because I was convinced that I had won the gold medal,’
John went on to contest the European Championships in Warsaw the following year and came away with bronze. Before turning pro, he represented Europe against the US in the Golden Gloves and was the victor over three American Golden Gloves champions. He was inducted into the Irish Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008.
John’s unprecedented podium finish at Helsinki marked the beginning of an extraordinary 70 years of achievement for Irish boxers at Olympic games. Boxing, as Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport, has claimed 18 of the country’s 35 medals. 9 of Ireland’s boxing medals have been won since 2008.
IABA extends its heartfelt condolences to John’s family and friends, and honours John’s unassailable position in the pantheon of Irish boxing. The IABA’s Chief Executive, Fergal Carruth, says “John was an absolute gentleman and will be fondly remembered by many in the Irish boxing family. A standout, naturally gifted boxer, John paved the way for all of Irish boxing’s Olympic success, winning our first ever medal (silver) in 1952. IABA hall of fame inductee John McNally was the first of a very select group of 18 Irish Olympic boxing medallists when he was beaten by the narrowest of margins by the home country Finnish fighter in the gold medal contest in Helsinki. His success as a boxer will be forever remembered by all who love boxing in Ireland.”
John was buried in Blaris Cemetery following Requiem Mass in St. Anne’s Church, Belfast, this morning.