Derry boxer Eamonn O'Kane overjoyed after delivering his baby daughter at family home

FORMER middleweight boxing champ, Eamonn O’Kane faced his ‘toughest opponent yet’ when he helped deliver his beautiful newborn daughter, Hollie Grace, in the bedroom of his family home.
Eamonn O’Kane, his wife Nicola and their sons Charlie (11), Oscar (8) and Louis (4) pictured with the newest member of the family, Hollie Grace.Eamonn O’Kane, his wife Nicola and their sons Charlie (11), Oscar (8) and Louis (4) pictured with the newest member of the family, Hollie Grace.
Eamonn O’Kane, his wife Nicola and their sons Charlie (11), Oscar (8) and Louis (4) pictured with the newest member of the family, Hollie Grace.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist is used to delivering blows in the ring but it turns out delivering babies isn’t beyond his skill set.

And he was almost taken the distance by his newly crowned ‘daddy’s girl’ after his wife Nicola suddenly went into labour.

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As the ambulance was delayed after taking a wrong turn close to his Feeny home, Eamonn was left alone to comfort his wife as he was talked through the birth by the emergency medical dispatcher.

And weighing in at 9lbs 4.5 ounces, the latest member of the O’Kane clan wasn’t waiting about for the bell but thankfully she arrived into the safe hands of her former IBF Inter-Continental champion father.

Eamonn showed he hasn’t lost any of his hand speed or quick reactions in high pressure situations as he kept his cool to help bring his fourth child into the world in the time it takes to go eight rounds in the ring - 24 minutes in total!

“I’m delighted,” beamed the former Irish middleweight champion. “We didn’t know if it was a girl or a boy, we thought we would leave the last one as a surprise. I’ve three boys and we just thought this would definitely be the last.

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“She’s been my toughest opponent yet without a doubt - my biggest challenge!” he laughed, “You might think you’re nervous for a fight but that supersedes anything.”

Eamonn O'Kane in more familiar territory in the boxing ring.Eamonn O'Kane in more familiar territory in the boxing ring.
Eamonn O'Kane in more familiar territory in the boxing ring.

The 38 year-old Banagher native has topped many a bill and even fought at Madison Square Garden, New York and won gold in a packed Talkatora Stadium in Delhi 10 years ago.

However, nothing would have prepared him for the pressure he felt last Friday night.

“Definitely not! The boxing ring was my hobby, it was my enjoyment, my life and my job. But delivering my daughter was not my job,” he smiled.

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“I’m a typical man when it comes to those situations. I never thought I would ever have to do anything like that.”

Eamonn and Nicola say their young family is now complete with the arrival of their only daughter who has been warmly welcomed by her three big brothers, Charlie (11), Oscar who turns nine on Sunday and four year-old Louis.

“If it had been a boy I would’ve been delighted too but I always said I wanted a daddy’s girl as I’ve three mammy’s boys at the house. Our wee girl is beautiful," added O'Kane who retired four years ago.

“I was at the birth of my three boys. The first one I was in tears watching her giving birth to him.”

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So was he panicking? “You try to be as comforting and as reassuring as possible. Was I sh**ting myself inside? Of course I was.

"I was trying to give Nicola direction, I was trying to give the ambulance driver directions as well while all the time relaying information back to the operator. And of course I’m worrying about our baby.”

Eamonn has been used to being crowned the hero during an outstanding amateur career and a successful 17 fight career in the pro ranks and while he’s been hailed a ‘champ’ by friends and family for his ringside seat heroics, he knows the real hero was Nicola who delivered their baby without pain relief!

And the fact she had to put full trust in her husband to follow the instructions of the emergency services operator, Joanne, was commendable to say the least.

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“She had no pain relief, nothing. So fair play to her never mind anybody else. I’ve been painted as some sort of unsung hero by all the family here but she’s the one who went through it.”

And Nicola has no problem allowing Eamonn to take the plaudits.

“I’ll let Eamonn take the credit because in fairness he had to go on autopilot,” she said. “I wasn’t really worried whereas he had the worry of being on his own and having the pressure of delivering the baby.

“For me it was just happening and I couldn’t do anything about it. I just had to go with it and that’s it. She was born inside 24 minutes. We’re all keeping good.”

Was a home birth ever on the agenda?

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“Somebody mentioned to us about having a home birth and I was quick to say ‘You can forget about that’,” said Eamonn bluntly.

“She was due on Monday, November 16th and booked in for a check or a (membrane) sweep on the following Friday in Limavady. She was experiencing niggles, like contractions.

“They told us to get a ball, like an exercise ball, and so we headed into Derry to get one. She was getting contractions but thought it was just false contractions.

“She had that at 11a.m. and we went to Derry, got a few groceries and it was 1p.m. by the time we got back to the house. She started to get more contractions and her mum told her to go into the hospital.

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“We got into the car but she was in too much pain to sit in the car. I rang the hospital back and the nurse advised her to go upstairs into the house. She told me to ring 999. The operator said she would send an ambulance out and talk me through it.

"Without her I would’ve definitely been up sh*t creek. She told me to get her in a comfortable position, get towels out and get the laces off your shoe and get a safety pin.

“So I was pulling the laces out of my shoe and she was having contractions. The contractions were getting stronger and faster. At this stage the ambulance went down the wrong lane. I could see them out our bedroom window and gave them directions again.

"The operator told me where to have my hands to catch the baby’s head if anything happened and I told her to tell the paramedics to go faster,” he laughed.

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“I talked them through how to get into our lane but at this stage Nicola’s waters had broken. When they were coming up the stairs the baby’s head was out and by the time they threw stuff out to help the baby’s shoulders were out.

“The ambulance paramedics were brilliant, Emma and Steve. And the operator was fantastic. I wouldn’t have had a clue if it wasn’t for her.

"As I say, I’m a typical man when it comes to this. I’ve been to three births before but I was merely a bystander and an encourager. On those occasions you can relax and encourage her.”

Eamonn and Nicola’s three boys were all born in Altnagelvin but Hollie Grace is very much a Feeny girl.

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“The boys are delighted to have another girl in the house. It’s been such a tough year for everybody so it’s nice to have a bit of good news. It’s nice how it’s all worked out.

“It’s great for me,” added Eamonn. “I always wanted a daddy’s girl. The rest of them were born in the ‘USA’ - upstairs in Altnagelvin but this one was born upstairs in Feeny Road.

“I’m boastful about my child and Nicola but it was nice to play my part. She’s without a doubt the real hero.”

Another real knockout performance by the former Irish and Commonwealth champ!

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