Fr Flanagan Boxing Club launched
THE doors of the Fr Flanagan Boxing Club were officially flung open last Saturday afternoon in Blessington when a large crowd turned up to celebrate the amalgamation of the Blessington and Ballymore Hollywood boxing clubs in the company of special guests Kenneth Egan, Olympic silver medalist, Athy’s Eric Donovan, current unbeaten professional and European bronze medalist and IABA CEO Fergal Carruth.
With training underway three nights a week and over 40 boxers turning up every night it’s safe to say that the future of the sport is very bright in west Wicklow
‘Delighted with the turnout,’ said Gerry O’Neill. ‘We had people from west Wicklow, from the National Stadium, it’s a great day, it’s the launch, and we’re looking forward to a bright future.
‘Myself, Bobby Cahill and a few more, the likes of Paddy Blake, Lord have mercy on him, Paddy only passed away two years ago, and he was here with me for many a year in the club in Blessington. He was here with me when Jimmy Hughes gave us the key of this place in 1981. Jimmy predicted that we’d last about two weeks and 37 years later we’re still at it.
‘We built on the extension here with the help from the IABA and sports capital funding and that, you know. Throughout the years we had a lot of las coming. Thousands of lads came through those doors, from all over west Wicklow, ironically even the Ballymore Hollywood, they were even part of this club going back, they trained and boxed here so it’s kind of a natural marriage if you like,’ added Gerry.
A gradual fall in numbers within both clubs prompted much courting of the idea of a merger and the new club, Fr Flanagan Boxing Club, will be affiliated with Kildare County Board as both the Ballymore Hollywood and Blessington clubs were due to geographical logistics.
‘We are affiliated with Kildare County Board, as we have been in the past. When we started in 1081, Blessington Boxing Club was affiliated with Kildare County Board. It being a winter sport, we always found it difficult crossing the Gap. We did have to affiliate to Wicklkow for a while but there’s no problem with Wicklow County Board, we get on very well, and we hope to improve our boxing with Kildare and with Wicklow, we want to have more inter-county tournaments.
‘Throughout the last year or two we struggled with numbers, not too bad, we always had 10 or 15 lads. Numebrs were down in Ballymore Hollywood as well over the last few years and now we have this place as a boxing club. The lads in Ballymore Hollywood have done great work in the recent past getting the new bags, and Mick Douglas, probably the oldest of the crew, but there’s more life in Mick Douglas than most lads.
‘Even at the moment we have some very good young lads. I can see Leinster champions this year and maybe even All-Ireland champions this year. We have Sean Murphy (head coach) and Richie Sweetman, the standard of those lads, and all the crew, Robbie Farrell, Bobby Gill and Sean Mahon working behind the scenes, there’s great determination and we’ll be producing shocks very soon,’ said Gerry.
Fr Flanagan committee member and co-founder Michael Gill spoke to the large crowd that gathered for the official opening. He said that the amalgamation was ‘fantastic’ for all the communities involved.
‘I’d just like to welcome everyone here today. It’s fantastic to see so many people here from all the different communities. My first experience in boxing was in Lanesboro under Tommy Harold, but when I came to Kildare, I met Sean (Murphy) and we set up Ballymore Boxing Club. But before we set that up, I actually came up here to Blessington and the first fight I ever had was with Gerry (O’Neill) in my corner. And that was my first introduction to Blessington Boxing Club.
‘This was thought about for a couple of years, for two year we were thinking about it, and we came together and had a meeting about it, and we think it’s a fantastic plan to bring all these communities together. We’ve had a big history in boxing, both Ballymore Hollywood and Blessington. It’s just a fantastic thing for the communities.
‘The experience that Ballymore Hollywood brings to Blessington with the coaching team we have, the numerous Irish champions that were in Ballymore Hollywood, you have Mick Douglas, Bobby Gill, Sean as head coach, Robbie Farrell, to see all these people giving up their time and coming up here to coach kids three days a week on top of bringing boxers away sparring, you know nobody really understands the commitment that coaches give for young people on a regular basis. Without them this wouldn’t happen,’ he added.
One of the many special guests on the day was the IABA CEO Fergal Carruth who said that clubs like Fr Flanagan were the lifeblood of the IABA and he thanked the volunteers without whom none of it would be possible.
‘I’m delighted to be here on behalf on the IABA. My favourite aspects of the job that I do is coming out to clubs like this and seeing the fantastic work that’s being done. I’m delighted to come here to help celebrate the amalgamationof these two clubs into the Fr Flanagan Club.
‘I’d like to thank the committee who invited me along, Gerry O’Neill, Amanda Gill and Michael Gill. And indeed, the coaches, Sean Murphy, head coach, Mick Douglas and Bobby Gill, and all the boxers past and present who are here today.
‘Michael Gill has been a fantastic contributor to the IABA over the years. He’s a referee and judge both domestically and internationally, he’s a great club man, he’s vice-president of the Leinster provincial council and he’s a member of the High Performance Advisory Committee for the IABA.
‘The amount of time that goes in behind the scenes to make boxing the success story that it is is just unbelievable. The amount of time that is given by people like the people here today, the coaches, the committee is just phenomenal. For the most part it’s unheralded, it’s unseen and it’s not celebrated, but today I’m delighted to see it being celebrated here today.
Fergal Carruth then paid tribute to the two special guests in attendance at the official opening of the Fr Flanagan Boxing Club, Kenneth Egan and Eric Donovan.
‘It would be remiss of me not to mention some people who are here today and the success story of the IABA. We’re very well known for the high performance structure that we have in place and we’re very, very proud of that and we’ll continue to make that as strong as possible. Two products of that are here today in the form of Eric Donovan and Kenneth Egan.
‘Eric is a multiple All-Ireland winner, a European bronze medalist, he’s currently unbeaten in professional ranks haivng won eight bouts and he’s a very successful pundit on RTE. It’s great to have Eric and it’s great to have Kenneth who is 10-time All-Ireland Senior champion, EU multiple champion, European bronze medalist twice and an Olympic silver medalist.
‘I’m sure the lads will agree because they have come up through the ranks from clubs like this, our high performance programme could not be successful, it couldn’t even be in existence without clubs like this. It couldn’t be in existence without people who come to your club night after night, open it up, put the heating on before the children come in and give of their time to unselfishly.
‘Clubs like this are the backbone of our organisation, and they’re the very lifeblood of the organisation and the reason for the success of the IABA,’ he added.
Fr Flanagan Boxing Club get their competitive life up and running this Saturday evening in Avon Ri when they are hosting a tournament from 7pm.
Special guests, coaches and members of the Fr Flanagan Boxing Club at the official opening last Saturday.
Noah Balfe with Olympic silver medallist Kenneth Egan at the offical opening of the Fr. Flanagan Boxing Club in Blessington.
Mick Duggan, Mick Gill and Gerry O’Neill.
Kayden Healy McGuire with Athy’s Eric Donovan, European bronze medallist and unbeaten professional.
Gerry O’Neill addresses the crowd.