Neilstown club fights for home of its own
Boxing Thomas Myler YOU could be forgiven for thinking that Neilstown BC on Dublin's westside is not a proper boxing club.
When you walk in, that familiar odour of rubbing oil is missing and there are no fight posters or boxing pictures around the walls. Or any showers.
But then, Neilstown is not an ordinary boxing clubhouse. Indeed, it is not a boxing clubhouse at all. It is the St Peter The Apostle National School hall and the club can only use it three nights a week, the rest of the time being taken up by the school for their leisure activities.
"It means we all have to set up the ring and the punchbags and speedballs when we come in and dismantle the whole lot when we leave so as to have it ready for the school the next morning," said secretary Gareth Dunne. "Then when we come back next time, it's the same thing all over again.
"It would be nice to have our own clubhouse, our own gym, and I reckon it would cost around ?500,000 to build the kind of one we would like. We have identified the land to build it on but the money is the thing. We have applied to the National Lottery for funds - but they get around 10,000 applications a year from clubs in similar circumstances so it's just luck I suppose.
"We have the local County Councillors and a number of politicians on our side, even the Tánaiste Mary Harney, whose constituency of Clondalkin embraces Neilstown. But nothing definite yet, just promises, promises, promises. The club was started in 1979 and at present we have around 40 members, and I think we deserve more than promises."
Ironically, Neilstown BC also happens to be the home club of Ireland's No 1 international boxer Kenneth Egan, the current European Union lightheavyweight gold medallist and a veteran of three World Senior Championships, reaching the last eight in two of them.
"It's such an awkward situation we find ourselves in, not to mention time-consuming," said Egan, 26, who has been national senior champion for the past four seasons and one of the outstanding boxers at his weight over the past two decades.
"I'm lucky inasmuch as I'm in the IABA's High Performance Programme scheme. I can train three times a week in the National Gym but the local boys do not have that facility. I also work out two days a week at the CityWest gym. But all members of Neilstown need to train together in their own place, and the sooner we get it, the better. I worked in the school hall for 10 years before I came onto the High Performance Programme."
Egan, who is on a ?20,000 annual grant from the Irish Sports Council, has just returned from San Francisco where he captained a Dublin selection to a 9-3 win over a Californian side.
He defeated Brandon Gonzales, a 22-year-old Sacramento boxer-puncher who is being hailed as a US prospect for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It's a busy period just now for Egan, who is also on track for Beijing. In two weeks' time he is off to Germany to take part in the Chemistry Cup, an international tournament. On May 19 he takes part in the Four Nations match against the mighty Russians in Dublin.
Three days later there is the defence of his title in the European Union Championships in Hungary, and in July he is off to Bulgaria for the European Senior Championships. It's a programme geared as a build-up to next year's World Championships at a venue to be decided, and then it's the Olympics.
"I've often thought of going pro, but it's been nothing more than thought. Anyway, I'm happy in the amateur game and there's a good bit of travelling involved. I'm lucky in that I've been all over the world."