Tributes paid to gentleman Jim McNeilly - a master of the basics of boxing

Jim McNeilly was a stalwart of Holy Trinity, and a cornerstone of the success the Turf Lodge club enjoye. Picture by Brendan Murphy
Neil Loughran

MASTER the basics and the rest will follow – that was Jim McNeilly’s boxing philosophy, and his approach helped launch Holy Trinity towards an era of unprecedented success.

The 81-year-old, who passed away on Monday following a long illness, will be laid to rest this morning following a funeral service at Holy Trinity Church in Turf Lodge at 10am.

Fond memories of his life, and the contribution made to the sport he loved, have been shared widely among friends and family during recent days.

Michael Hawkins was among those who knew him best after over 25 years coaching side by side at Holy Trinity, and he recalls a man whose appreciation of the fundamentals made him “an invaluable asset” to the club.

He said: “Jim was one of the founder members at Newhill boxing club before he joined Holy Trinity, and his first role in the club was looking after the juvenile boxers and getting them into shape.

“He did the drills very patiently, getting the stance and guard correct – and patience is the big word when it comes to nine, 10, 11 year olds.

“Jim was absolutely quality, and the result was that when you were taking the kids on the pads, you weren’t taking a novice on the pads; you were taking a child who had been taught how to stand, how to guard and how to throw punches, how to rotate punches.

“It just made the whole thing run so much more smoothly, and really that was our shortcut to success. Jim joining the club in the 1973/74 season, and within three or four years we won the best club in Ulster award.

“He was excellent at doing the basics, and that has been the cornerstone of our success for coming up on 50 years – getting the foundations right and then building from there.”

And that success followed Jim when he helped re-form the Corpus Christi club in the late 1990s.

“He brought that same skill-set there as well,” recalls Hawkins.

“Honestly, I couldn’t speak highly enough of Jim. Even away from boxing, he was a very pleasant, mild-mannered man who was a great asset to our club and to boxing.

“He’ll be sadly missed.”

Jim McNeilly’s nephew, Tony Leonard, first learnt his trade under the expert tutelage of his uncle at Holy Trinity, and remembers some hairy trips to training on the back of a Honda 50 motorbike during the early days.

“He used to pick me up at the bottom of the Whiterock Road and bring me up to the club, rain, hail or snow. He was that kind of guy, very committed, very reliable.

“And once you were there, he was disciplined - he had the patience to work with you and when you were doing things wrong, he’d help you correct it.

“He would’ve taken 12 or 14 boxers into the back room at the club and just patiently showed them how to throw punches – that was your drill for maybe an hour.

“Jim was a perfectionist, but he knew what he was at, and he just had the right way of getting through to young fellas.”

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