New International Exhibition Packs A Punch At Ulster American Folk Park
Pat O'Donnell (Ulster American Folk Park, Curator of Collections & Exhibitions), Barry McGuigan, James J. Houlihan (curator) (Darren Kidd, Press Eye Ltd.)
Some of the biggest names in Irish boxing including Barry McGuigan, Paul McCloskey and Charlie Nash were at the award-winning Ulster American Folk Park last Thursday for the launch of Jim Houlihan's renowned 'Fighting Irishmen' boxing exhibition. Previously a mainstay in New York and Boston for three years, this is the first time the internationally acclaimed exhibition has gone on display outside the USA.
Officially launched by boxing legend Barry McGuigan, the exhibition features an array of photographs and memorabilia charting the unique stories of Celtic Prizefighters from 1820 to the present day. Objects on display include pieces from sporting greats such as John L. Sullivan, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, James J. Corbett, Barry McGuigan, John Caldwell, Freddie Gilroy, Wayne McCullough and John Duddy. In addition, the exhibition incorporates the 2008 Irish Olympic boxing team and young professionals currently making their mark on the local and world stage.
Ballymena-born Liam Neeson, Honorary Chair and long time supporter of the Irish Arts Center in New York City, loaned personal items from his amateur career to the exhibit including the gloves given to him by Freddie Gilroy. And, courtesy of Josephine Byrne, perhaps the most unique item in the Omagh exhibition is the late, great Irish fighter Dan Donnelly's mummified right arm.
Speaking at the exhibition's launch, Barry McGuigan said, "Love of boxing runs deep in Ireland's veins and that passion for the sport travelled unabated to America with emigration. The exhibition is fantastic and clearly highlights boxing's rich history from 1820 onwards. I'm thrilled to be part of the exhibition and think it is highly appropriate to have it displayed at the Ulster American Folk Park."
'Fighting Irishmen: Celebrating Celtic Prizefighters 1820-Present' was developed by the Irish Arts Center in New York City under the direction of guest curator James J. Houlihan and is set to run at the Omagh museum until the 29th November. The exhibition has also gained the prestigious 'Inspire Mark' - a title awarded to outstanding cultural projects throughout the UK inspired by the London 2012 Olympics.
A reenactment of bare knuckle fight, Michael Gallogley (left) and Alaistair Moran (right) (Darren Kidd, Press Eye Ltd.)
Dr Jim McGreevy, Director of Collections and Interpretation at National Museums Northern Ireland said, "This is a superb exhibition of international acclaim which can now be enjoyed by the Northern Ireland public and beyond. Ireland, both north and south, has a strong boxing heritage and, for nearly 200 years, has produced world-champion fighters which are wonderfully portrayed in this special exhibition.
"We are delighted the exhibition is now officially linked with the Olympic Games as it portrays talented, motivated and inspirational sportsmen and very much encapsulates the spirit of London 2012", said Dr. McGreevy.
'Fighting Irishmen' has achieved extraordinary success since opening at the Irish Arts Center in New York City in Autumn 2006. It has been the subject of a feature documentary by the BBC, which aired in the North in 2006. The exhibit was also featured at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York as their main attraction in 2007 and was most recently presented at the John J. Burns library at Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts. The exhibition which has been adapted for display at the Ulster American Folk Park will also include film and audio interactive materials for all visitors to use.
For further information on the exhibition, visit www.nmni.com