Charlie Nash's Commonwealth Games snub and Dana's Eurovision Song Contest victory - 50 years on!
IT’S BEEN 50 years since Charlie Nash won his first Irish Senior lightweight title at the National Stadium, Dublin on April 24th, 1970 - the same weekend his Dunree Gardens neighbour, Dana won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘All Kinds of Everything’ in Amsterdam.
The fleet-footed Creggan boxer went on to win it on four further occasions in 1971, 1972, 1973 and for the final time in 1975 as he became the first Derry boxer to be crowned a five times national senior champion!
Remarkably, Nash remains the only boxer from the city to have won five Irish senior titles - a record which ranks high in his list of accomplishments during a career which went from strength to strength until he hung up his gloves after his final professional bout against Rene Weller in March 1983.
Those 13 years as a boxer, five as a professional, have, indeed, brought Charlie many cherished memories including his British lightweight title victory over Johnny Claydon at the Templemore Sports Complex on February 1978 and his European title successes against Andre Holyk at the same venue on June 1979, against Ken Buchanan in Denmark the following December and Fransciso Leon 12 months later in Dublin. He also earned a world title tilt where he came up short against Jim Watt in the Kelvin Hall, Glasgow.
He surpassed the achievements of fellow Derry boxing legends Jim and Billy ‘Spider’ Kelly who both were crowned British featherweight champion, less than 20 years apart.
However while both Kellys won the Commonwealth featherweight titles - Jim back in 1938 and Billy in 1954 - as professionals, it was the Commonwealth Games which had evaded Charlie as an amateur and it’s something which irks him to this very day - a half century on!
The skilful St Mary’s clubman had been crowned Ulster Senior champion in 1969 but he was bizarrely snubbed by the Ulster Boxing Council who had put together a squad to compete at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.
Belfast boxer, Paddy Devanney, who Charlie had beaten on points to win the 1970 Irish senior 60kgs title on April 24th was selected to represent Northern Ireland at the Games the following July.
Devanney was eventually beaten by Scotsman, John Gillan who went on to win silver medal. And to add insult to injury, Charlie went on to beat Gillan in his first international representing Ireland shortly afterwards.
While Charlie went on to bigger and better things as an amateur, representing Ireland at the European Championships in Madrid in 1971 where he got to the quarter-finals, the Munich Olympics in 1972 where he was beaten by the gold medalist in the quarter-finals. He also wore the green vest at the European Championships in Yugoslavia in 1973 and the 1975 Europeans in Poland. On both those occasions Charlie lost out to the eventual champion!
So while the decision to overlook him for the Commonwealth Games still frustrates Charlie, he believes it was Ulster boxing’s loss as he opted never to compete in the provincial finals again.
Charlie recalls how he was taken aback by the decision and remembers how his first Irish senior title win came during a memorable weekend for the people of Creggan.
“When I won the Irish senior title it was on a Friday night,” recalled Charlie. “I lived in Dunree Gardens in Creggan with my family and the girl who lived around the corner won the Eurovision Song contest the next night - Dana.
“I won the Irish title as the first Derry boxer on the Friday night and Dana was in Amsterdam and won the Eurovision on the Saturday night.”
He had expected to go on to perform at the Commonwealth Games but was dealt a blow.
“I came across an Ulster Senior Championships programme recently from the Ulster Hall, Thursday, March 19th 1970 at 8p.m,” said Charlie. “I was in the second fight, Charlie Nash, St Mary’s Boys Club, fighting Jim Montague. He went on to win Ulster titles at lightweight and light-welterweight from the Star Club in Belfast. I actually beat him in the Ulster Senior Championships
“So I won the Ulster senior title and Northern Ireland were picking a team for the Commonwealth Games,” he explained.
“What happened was I won the Ulster Senior title and then two weeks later won the Irish senior title.
“They were picking the Commonwealth Games and they picked a guy called Paddy Devaney ahead of me because he was from Belfast I’m assuming. So they never sent me to the Commonwealth Games. After that I never entered the Ulster Championships again.
“I was doing well for Ireland but I didn’t enter the Ulster Championship because I thought, if you’re Ulster champion and they picked the guy who won it the year before instead of me, then what’s the point. They sent him to the Commonwealths so what was the point in even entering again after that?
“When the boxer from Belfast went to the Commonwealth Games in my place it was a Scotch man called John Gillan who beat him.
“My first internationals with Ireland a couple of months after that was against Scotland and I actually beat John Gillan on points. So I could’ve won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games for Northern Ireland if things had been different.
"It was their loss not mine,” he smiled.
Charlie’s five Irish title victories and his European Championship and Olympic Games experiences set the tone for what was to be an outstanding, record breaking career in the sport for the Derry man. And he wouldn’t change a thing!
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