A Donegal priest has taken to the boxing ring to raise funds for a church restoration project in  Letterkenny.

Fr Damian McGroarty’s sermon packed a powerful punch on Saturday night when he took part, appropriately, in a ‘white collar’ boxing event in the local Clanree Hotel.

Fr McGroarty challenged Liam Gordon in what one observer described as a ‘no holds barred’ contest to help reduce the $1million deficit on renovation funds at St Eunan’s Cathedral in Letterkenny.

The recently ordained priest, from the Fanad Peninsula in the county, took the fight so seriously that he cut out all junk food and trained twice a week, losing six kg in the process.

“I was involved in athletics when I was younger so I liked to keep fit. But the boxing training got me into good shape,” said Fr McGroarty.

“I cut out junk food and it was great to get a few tips from some of the lads at the Letterkenny Boxing Club. I really enjoyed it.”

A capacity crowd of almost 700 fans – including former Fianna Fail government minister Dr Jim McDaid – saw the fighting priest secure a draw against opponent Gordon.

“I suppose some people might have raised an eyebrow at a priest getting involved in a boxing match but it’s only a bit of fun and it’s good that someone from the church is right at the centre of the fundraising,” added Fr McGroarty.

Fr Damian McGroarty (right) mixing it with opponent Liam Gordon during the big fight night in aid of St Eunan's Cathedral in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, on Saturday.Irish Times