Boxing club hoping to keep up Derry's fine fighting tradition
FROM the legendary Billy ‘Spider’ Kelly to Paul McCloskey, Derry has a history of producing top quality fighters - and there could be a few more in the pipeline thanks to an emerging club in Swatragh.
Better known for its hurling and Gaelic football exploits, the village has been building a name for boxing since St John’s ABC first opened its doors in 2010. Head coach Ciaran Quinn had been involved with Draperstown Boxing Club for 10 years before the opportunity came along to start a new club closer to home and he hasn’t looked back since.
“A wee derelict hall came up in Swatragh, it had been all renovated, so there was a chance of renting it,” said Quinn.
“It’s very hard in a wee place like Swatragh because of the football and hurling. But we just started at the bottom with the young lads of seven and eight and now we have a good few titles.”
Ciaran’s son Eoghan was the first to achieve glory on the national stage, lifting the Boy 3 title at 46kg last Saturday to add to his Boy 2 success 12 months ago. The talented Ben O’Connell dropped a split decision in his final, while Shane Stokes lost out to European silver medallist Steven Kearns.
Those boys have been with the club since it started and St John’s are now starting to reap the benefits. The knock-on effect of such success is the incentive it gives younger boxers at the club to follow in their footsteps.
Quinn added: “We have a couple of intermediates there but, really, we started from the bottom and are taking the lads up with us.
“Most of our boxers are around that 13-14 age group now and they’ve made big strides. We’ve over 30 between eight and 10-years-old on a Wednesday night and between 20 and 25 lads from 11 upwards on Monday and Thursday, so there’s plenty of talent coming through.
“We go for sparring in Cookstown, Coleraine, St Paul’s in Belfast, the clubs up in Derry and Donegal. We just try to change it about. There’s kids coming from Maghera, Slaughtneil, a couple of wee lads from Upperlands, Lavey, a brother and sister from Bushmills - it’s good to see.
“We won five Nine Counties titles last year and the same this year and seeing a few titles coming to the club helps everybody else and encourages the younger ones.”
Working alongside coaches Adrian Brolly, Sean Deighan, Henry Gribben, Mark Nelson and Ciaran Casey, Quinn’s long-term goal is to keep the conveyor belt rolling, with the hope that those making a name for themselves at underage level can continue to progress right up to senior standard.
“I’m hoping these boys and girls will be about at senior level in a few years time and that any of the wee kids watching them on the way up will want to go that way too,” he continued.
“I boxed for Errigal and won a few Derry and District titles and lost in a few Ulster finals. I maybe wasn’t as committed as I want the wee boys to be now. We had three in Dublin this year and three last year, which is good going. We put a new roof on the hall a few years ago and have applied for different grants to try and get new toilets and a changing room in the future.
“The community has been very good to us when it comes to sponsoring tournaments or doing anything at all and hopefully they’ll continue to support us.”
SOME top talent will be on display this week as the Antrim BG 4-7s take place at Corpus Cristi College in Belfast.
Tuesday night’s programme sees Gleann’s European Junior bronze medallist Anthony Johnston in action against Peter Weatherall at 70kg. Boxing starts at 7.30pm.
Semi-final: B5 63kg: K Griffen (Eastside) v A Carson (Townland).
Finals: B4 52kg: J Adams (Antrim) v C Fisher (Oliver Plunkett); B4 63kg: S McComb (St George’s) v Ali Ahmed (Carryduff); B4 70kg: C Murphy (Toome) v D Sofuyi (Ledley Hall); B5 46kg: A McAlonan (Lisburn) v JP Hale (Star); B5 50kg: C Convery (All Saints') v T Quinn (St Paul’s); B5 52kg: K Bittles (St Paul’s) v T McMullan (All Saints'); B5 54kg: B McReynolds (Holy Trinity) v L McKee (Star); B5 75kg: O McNaughton (Dockers) v L Dickey (Scorpion); B6 63kg: R Baxter (Ledley Hall) v R Maskey (St Paul’s); B6 70kg: A Johnston (Gleann) v P Weatherall (Patsy Quinn)