Famous St George's finally has a place to call home again
IT HAS been a long wait but, finally, one of the oldest boxing clubs in Ireland has a place to call home.
The famous St George’s club, which first opened its doors in 1939, found themselves having to train in entries and car parks at times after being forced out of their Hamilton Street clubrooms three years ago. But in recent months, the Market men have finally moved into new premises beside St Malachy’s Church on Alfred Street, with throngs of youngsters coming through the door where they are welcomed by a sign which reads: ‘St George’s: Cradle of Champions’.
“It’s just brilliant to get in here at last,” said coach Danny Boyd.
“It’s been a long wait, but it’s been worth it. We had to train in the entry when we were locked out, then I had them out in the car park. But it’s fantastic now having our own place - just getting those keys was a great moment. It has given everybody a lift and you can see it in the boxers.”
Boyd first walked through the doors of the club at eight-years-old and has been there through the good times and the bad. A talented boxer, he was brought up under the watchful eye of trainer Jimmy Clinton. And he recalls his mentor, who died in 2007, fearing St George’s could have produced its last champion.
“I remember being down at the Dockers one night when wee Eddie Nesbitt was boxing and Jimmy said ‘that’s it, we’re closing’,” said Boyd.
“We had been told we had six months to leave the old building.”
A planned refurbishment project by Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust was put on the long finger and, although they were initially told they could remain in the building, St George’s were forced to make alternative arrangements. The determination to keep the old club alive stayed strong and, in the past three years, they have had to adopt a ‘make do’ attitude after being shifted from pillar to post.
Still though, they churned out top fighters. Christine Gargan won Irish titles and a European silver, while James McGivern is rated one of the top talents to come out of Ireland in recent years. Still just 17, McGivern won a gold medal at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa last September and a silver at the European Youths in November. McGivern’s father Jim is also a coach at St George’s, while younger brother Jack has a big future in the ring.
Another one to watch is Colm Murphy, who recently defeated two Irish champions on the way to winning an Ulster title at Youth 1. The conveyor belt is certainly showing no signs of slowing down.
Boyd added: “Whenever you go to coaching courses, they ask you to set a plan out. We have training sessions set out every night - there’s no playing it by ear and it’s starting to pay off.
“You have the coaches and then the likes of Paddy Graham, who is a real legend of the club. Even now, there is no better man to turn to for advice. We’re taking novices to Ulster and Irish titles, they’re making great strides. Hopefully now, we’ll get more kids in.
“It’s all starting to fall into place. It took us a couple of months to get used to it [the new premises], but they were talking about putting these fancy photos up - I just started sticking photos to the wall. Now it’s really starting to feel like a club.”
OLYMPIC hopeful Michael O’Reilly had to settle for silver at the Gee Bee Multi-Nations tournament in Helsinki at the weekend.
The European Games champion lost the middleweight final to France’s Christian M’Billi-Assomo after a pulsating three-rounder. TJ Waite also picked up a silver medal as he produced a big performance before losing out to Russia’s Ovik Ogannisian in the 52kg final.
London 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill ceded a walkover to Kazakh heavyweight Vasilly Levitt in the 91kg decider after picking up a facial cut in his semi-final win over Italian Tommaso Rossano last Saturday.
ULSTER boxers James McGivern and Aaron McKenna bowed out of the Nikolay Pavlyukov tournament at the last-eight stage.
St George’s stylist McGivern lost his bantamweight showdown with Mamapali Nursuit from Kazakhstan, while McKenna (Old School) controversially dropped a split decision to Scotland’s William Stuart.
SACRED HEART, Omagh boxer Tiernan Bradley jetted out to Pittsburgh on Monday as part of an Irish select ready to go to toe-to-toe with their American opponents on St Patrick’s Day.
Bradley received a special invite to travel with the team from the only Irish male boxer to win an Olympic gold medal, Michael Carruth. Also competing are the highly-rated Gary Cully and Martin Stokes. Tyrone teenager Bradley takes on Rosalindo Morales.
This will be the third year of the Donnybrook Ambassadors Cup, with Team Ireland facing Team Pittsburgh at the city’s grand hall.
THE Antrim Boy/Girl 123 Championships got under way on Monday and the action continues with the first round of finals at Falls Leisure Centre on Tuesday.
Champions will book their spot at the National Championships in Dublin over Easter week, with a coveted Irish title at stake.
B1 27kg: C Darragh (St Michael’s) v C Taylor (St Agnes’); B1 29kg: D McGuigan (Gleann) v C Taylor (Oliver Plunkett); B1 33kg: C Browne (Oliver Plunkett) v C McCrory (Townland); B1 36kg: J Watson (Saints) v T Buick (Canal); B1 42kg: J Butler (All Saints) v J Diver (Immaculata); B1 46kg: S Mark (All Saints) v L Hughes (Dockers); B1 50kg: S Davey (Townland) v P Lennon (Holy Trinity); B2 33kg: D Eagleson (BABA) v C Mullan (St Paul’s); B3 36kg: J Moore (Antrim) v P McCleary (Ardoyne); B3 39kg: M O’Doherty (Clonard) v J McConnell (Townland); B3 48kg: B Johnston (Emerald) v T McCann (St Paul’s); B3 50kg: D McAnoy-Ross (Antrim) v M McGregor (Holy Trinity).
A COUNTY Antrim select take on a Belgian team at the Dockers club on Friday night. First fight at 8pm.