DONAL FITZGERALD hung up the hurl. He played junior hurling with Cuala. “Ah, I played a couple of senior league games,” he says modestly.
He wanted to keep fit. He joined the Monkstown Boxing Club. “It just snowballed.”
Cillian Reardon is a champion there. He is part of Jim Gavin’s strength and conditioning crew.
Local GAA players have also excelled in the ring. Monkstown have Dublin champs from Stars of Erin, St Olaf’s, Kilmacud Crokes and Cuala.
Donal says that the boxing training is a big help to GAA players. And indeed other sports.
“We get teams coming to us all the time - GAA, soccer, rugby, etc. They are just looking for something different, something extra.”
Boxing is a great teacher. “The benefits are huge,” explains Donal. “You have aspects like the focus on footwork, discipline and fitness. Fitness is such a crucial part of boxing.
“When we are training, we try to keep people on their toes from the start of the session to the end. We do a lot of skipping. Boxing also helps a player in decision making.”
Boxercise is proving very popular as a way of keeping fit. It is non contact. All ages, men and women, are members of the club. They start as young as five.
The club began ten years ago in Fitzgerald Park. A wall was knocked between two of the old flats. Now the Boxing Club HQ is in the Mounttown Community Rooms.
The success of Billy Walsh’s Irish boxers had an echo, especially the heroics of Katie Taylor in London.
“There was a big Katie factor. It brought a lot of girls into the club. Thankfully, we have managed to hold onto a lot of them.”
John Paul Kinsella is the Head Coach. He is a former Irish senior champ. He boxed in the World Championships and he is a highly-regarded coach.
“The dedication of the coaches is remarkable. I couldn’t speak highly enough of these guys. It is fantastic what they do,” states Donal.
“You can see such pride in the eyes of the kids. They are so keen that they are down training when they are not meant to be. Boxing can be a life-changer.
“It’s amazing to see a 10-year-old boy skipping in a jacket, covered in sweat, trying to lose a couple of ounces so that he can make a competition the following week.”
Mick Dowling is one of Ireland’s most treasured boxers. He also knows his hurling onions. He’s from Castlecomer. Mick always said that you should train so hard that the fight should be the easy bit. And the same is true of the match on a Saturday or a Sunday.
Donal’s brother, Ken, was an accomplished hurling full-back with Cuala. He’s now a top GAA coach. “Boxing teaches you so many good habits. And you can bring those habits into other sports, and indeed life,” he says.
More and more teams are heading to Monkstown to give them that extra sharpness. The club’s name is now top-of-the-bill. In the recent Multi-Counties tournament, Monkstown weighed in 24 boxers and brought home 18 gold medals.
And Donal stresses that ring’s three-card trick - good feet, fitness and discipline - can help GAA teams, and indeed people of all ages, men and women, boys and girls, lead a healthy lifestyle. More details about Monkstown BC on the club’s Facebook page.