On July 12, the FDNY Bravest Boxing Club took on Garda Síochána, the national police service of Ireland, in the fourth annual “Thrilla in Camilla” match.
The FDNY emerged victorious, but the real winners were the charity Building Homes for Heroes (BHFH), which received a donation of $40,000 from the event.
“What they do is they build mortgage-free, handicap accessible housing for veterans coming back with severe injuries,” explained Bobby McGuire, president of the FDNY Bravest Boxing Club.
The night before the fight, O’Neill’s of Maspeth hosted members of the two teams for a group dinner.
“These guys just got here from Ireland today, so we want them to feel welcome and comfortable before they go at it tomorrow,” said O’Neill’s owner Daniel Pyle.
The FDNY Bravest Boxing Club has been partnering with BHFH for the last ten years, and in that time have raised over $500,000. The money raise this year will go toward building a home in Florida for U.S. Marine Corporal Jeremy Kelley.
McGuire said that the FDNY has been boxing the Irish squad for almost 20 years, with the event location alternating between continents.
“This is probably about the seventh time we’ve had them over,” he said.
Paul Tierney, a sergeant at Garda, said the event gives “both services a chance to raise money for charity.”
Garda Síochána, which means “Guardians of the Peace” in Gaelic, has boxed since 1922. Tierney said the event helps to strengthen the Irish-American bond in the police and firefighting forces.
The FDNY Boxing Club started in 1982.
“A lady from the New York Telephone Company approached Lieutenant Mandy Fernandez at the time and asked him if he could get five firemen to fight five cops for a charity event,” said McGuire. “That’s really how it started.”
It grew from a one-time event to an annual boxing match between firefighters and members of the NYPD.
“Then it ended up growing to where we fight all over the world,” McGuire said. “They always receive us warmly because there’s a lot of respect for the NYC Fire Department.”
Among the warmest are the Irish.
“When we go there, there’s a lot of people that come to cheer on the Americans,” McGuire said. “They’re very hospitable people. There’s a great cultural connection, and it’s very easy to mix with these guys.”
However, the Irish squad is also full of relentless fighters, McGuire was quick to note.
“It’s never easy against the tough Irish team,” he said. “There’s no quit in these guys, so every fight goes right to the end.”
Both McGuire and Tierney have since hung up their boxing gloves. Tierney last fought in 2016 against Sharif Farrow of the FDNY.
“I just want fair fights, nobody getting injured, and get as much money for the charity,” said Tierney. “If we get that, the night is a success.”
“Winning and losing is secondary to a great night of boxing and raising a lot of money for a greater cause,” McGuire added.