Tributes have been paid to former boxing coach Michael ‘Chick’ Gillen, who has died in Galway.
The 87-year old’s career highlight came in 1996 when he trained Francis Barrett to become the first Traveller to take part in the Olympics when he qualified to compete in Atlanta.
He also coached boxers to win 28 national titles, having been an accomplished champion boxer himself who won Connacht and Irish crowns.
The Mayor of Galway, Cllr Mike Cubbard, said that the city had lost one of its most famous characters.
“Chick himself was a Connacht champion boxer and brilliant coach and mentor and he went on to train 28 national champions and of course his work with Francie Barrett.
I’m very sorry to hear of his passing and my thoughts are with his family and his many, many friends at this sad time. He entertained the city for generations.
‘Chick’ Gillen ran a barber shop in Dominick Street in the city and retired after 60 years in 2013, having also served as a firefighter with Galway Fire Brigade.
He lived in Mervue on the east of the city with his wife Maureen and six children.
The open door of his barber shop in Dominick Street ensured thousands were regaled with his stories over the years, according to John Mongan, secretary of the Olympic Boxing club which he helped set up in 1965.
“People would go in for a chat while he was cutting someone’s hair and he would be all talk and all movement. He had a great memory, could recite bouts and boxers from all over the world.
“He had some great sayings and ‘Hit Em Hard and Hit Em often’ was one of them. He never stressed and if something bad happened he would say don’t be worrying about, that it would pass.
“He leaves behind a great legacy. He will always be remembered for what he achieved with Francie Barrett but the Olympic club has thrived as well. We would 13 national titles last year, a dozen the year before and it’s all down to the work Chick and others did,” he said.
Another former boxing coach, Gay Farrell of Galway Boxing Club, said that the city and boxing had lost one of its characters.
“Chick was a legend in his own lifetime. He will be sadly missed by all the boxing fraternity.”
His private funeral Mass will take place on Monday at 11am at the Church of the Holy Family, Mervue, and he will be laid to rest in the New Cemetery in Bohermore afterwards.