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    Stories, Events, Information, and Presentations Linking the Arts of Boxing and Writing with a Special Emphasis on Literary Works and Figures Connected to Boxing
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FIGHTING FENIANS: a St. Paul Boxing Tradition

(Editor’s Note: The following story is a fictional narrative for a semi-scripted Theatrical Boxing Exhibition at the 2008 Minnesota Irish Fair in St. Paul, MN, USA. The story is an original creation of Mark Connor protected by U.S. Copyright law, and the production is the property of Danny Morgan and The Bogside Boxers, also protected under U.S. Copyright law.)

It is 1908, the state of Minnesota is 50 years old, and its Irish immigrant population has lived through tough times that seem to keep getting tougher. Nowhere is that more clear than in the capital city, St. Paul, where for two generations the Irish have spread out among the Germans, Swedes, French and other immigrants who have driven its development.

These immigrants have survived  tremendous violence, starting with  exile  during the so-called Potato Famine, when the colonial British shipped edible food under armed guard to England while the Irish people starved. Upon arriving in the U.S., revolutionaries among them formed the Fenian Brotherhood in 1858, the same year the state of Minnesota was founded. Dedicated to organizing a rebellion to free Ireland from Britain, the Fenians gained military experience in the U.S. Army, fighting on the Union side of the Civil War. Some of them followed a fiery leader, William O’Donahue, and attacked the British in Canada. After those battles were over O’Donahue settled in Rosemount, where his grave now lies, and his most valued soldiers married and raised families in and around St. Paul, teaching their sons to be fierce fighters in the tradition of the Na Fianna, the ancient warriors of Ireland after whom the Fenians are named.

After a lifetime of war and witnessing the unjust violence against the Dakota people, these soldiers of O’Donahue went to their graves having passed on a warrior spirit that survived in their grandsons—-”Danny” Dan O’Malley, “Murderer” McCrea, “Malicious” Mark McMilseán, Ryan “The Hook” O’Neal, “Kid” Callahan, “Mad” Matt O’Hara, and “Cunning” Connor Conroy—-who have decided to meet up at Harriet Island on the Mississippi River in the heart of St. Paul to see who is the best fighter from Ireland.

Witness “Kid” Callahan, who used to look up to the older “Danny” Dan O’Malley, try to take his head off in a grueling grudge match pitting the young up-and-comer against the crafty veteran. Watch the tremendous evasive footwork and counterpunching techniques of “Malicious” Mark McMilseán, who perfected the “Irish Shuffle” at traditional step dance parties, take on the knockout power of Ryan “the Hook” O’Neal, whose left hook has been known to drop whoever it touches. You’ll also see “Kid” Callahan take on the maniacal “Murderer” McCrea, whose long, powerful arms are known as the “lead pipes” of the ring. Not to be out shined by the young Callahan, “Mad” Matt O’Hara takes on “Danny” Dan O’Malley to prove that he too can battle with the best of the veterans, while O’Malley confidently enters the ring with anyone who dares challenge. Finally, “Murderer” McCrea is intent on employing his bullying tactics against the much smaller McMilseán, and before the weekend is over, one of them will be challenged by the precocious youngster, “Cunning” Connor Conroy, who believes his small size and speed will combine with his tremendous smarts to outbox and outpunch any of these fighters.

In the summer of 1908 the United States are still developing and the challenges are many among Minnesotans. International events in the next few years will develop into a world war, and these descendants of Fenian grandfathers are themselves secretly assisting efforts that in eight years will result in the Easter Rebellion in Ireland. But this weekend they will fight their hearts out to decide who among them is the true Ard Rí “Hi King” of Irish Boxing.

Mark Connor
© 2008, by Mark Connor

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