Boxing

Seconds Out: Ulster Council hasn't given up hope of running competitions but tough calls lie ahead

Boxing clubs across Ireland have returned to training in recent months, but hopes for a return to competitive action before the end of the year remain less clear. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

THE Ulster Council hasn’t given up hope of being able to run competitions before the end of 2020, but president Kevin Duffy admits it will be “very difficult to facilitate our normal championships” due to current restrictions.

Earlier in the month the Irish Athletic Boxing Association released a provisional fixtures schedule for the coming months.

However, they have already been forced to cancel the proposed open youth competition – scheduled to begin at the National Stadium on October 2 – following a tightening of restrictions in Dublin.

New restrictions have also been applied in areas across Belfast, Lisburn and Ballymena, with further localised lockdowns expected in the coming weeks.

As a result, making any kind of plans for a return to competitive boxing in the north is proving problematic – with Duffy adamant that the health and wellbeing of all boxers, coaches and parents must come first.

“Last week we met with some representatives from the county boards, and the general thinking was it would be very difficult for us to facilitate our normal championships, given the advice that’s coming out,” said the Derry man, a coach at St Joseph’s Boxing Club in the city.

“That was the general view, however all of us will do all we can. If we get the right advice, the regulations and guidelines to say that we can facilitate boxing, then we will. Nobody on the Ulster Council or any of the governing bodies is stopping boxing coming back, we’re operating purely on the basis of safety advice.

“These different locations shutting down in different ways is affecting how individual clubs can train or travel, which is obviously a disadvantage to them. The reality is we are one of the most high risk sports, and it’s very difficult for us to comply with everything that’s being asked.

“We sought advice from the expert group within Sport NI and they came back to us with some guidelines in terms of trying to manage any kind of competition. However, we’re still seeking a bit more clarification to establish whether or not we can facilitate any type of event.

“We haven’t ruled it in or out but we’re coming to a stage where we have to make an overall decision about the fixture list we would usually have at this time of year.

“At the end of the day we have a responsibility to not create a situation that is potentially going to make it more risky for anybody, and we’re all in agreement that we’re not going to do that. That may mean, for a period of time, boxing doesn’t happen how we want it to happen.

“But in the longer term, and looking at the bigger picture, hopefully we’ll come out the best for it.”

In this quarter of the year, clubs and boxers are normally busy preparing for nine counties, underage novice and open championships, as well as Ulster intermediates.

However, we are operating in far from normal times and Duffy acknowledge that the constant shifting of the goalposts makes nailing down dates even more difficult.

He added: “It’s looking very unlikely that any of those championships are going to go ahead, however we may be in a position to run smaller, inter-county type one-off events or some other championships later in the year.

“It’s a very changeable situation, and we can only try and reassure everyone that if we get the go ahead we can do it very quickly. We have a plan there in place to try and manage it, so we’re not ruling anything out.

“People want to have an opportunity to do the sport that they love and be part of it all. We would love things to be normal, nobody wants to be in this situation, but we have to be responsible and respect the unfortunate situation we’re in for the good of everybody.”

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Action from a fight during an open air show at O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny during the 1940s

NEW BOOK TO CHART HISTORY OF DONEGAL BOXING

A NEW book charting the history of boxing in Donegal is to be released on December 12.

‘Boxing in Donegal: A history’, written by sportswriter and author Chris McNulty, will explore the foundations of the sport in the county and deal with its growth and development in the decades prior to 1950, when an organised structure was put in place.

The book will feature the 10 Donegal boxers who have won Irish Elite titles - Brian Anderson, Paddy Doherty, Eamon Coyle, Danny Ryan, Cathal McMonagle, William McLaughlin, Emma Bowe, Tyrone McCullagh, Jason Quigley and Maeve McCarron – and will include some fascinating stories from down though the years.

For example, did you know that a Donegal-born boxer was recognised as a world welterweight champion in 1913? Or that the family one of the finest flyweight boxers of all time hailed from the county?

“The Donegal Boxing Board is delighted to back the publishing of this book to mark a special milestone in the history of our sport,” said Donegal Boxing Board president Peter O’Donnell.

“All of the clubs in the county have rowed in behind the project and have been very generous in submitting details and photographs for inclusion. The book is endorsed by both the Irish Athletic Boxing Association and the Ulster Boxing Council.

“Boxing has a rich and storied history in Donegal and it is brilliant that we will now have a proper record of the many great boxers and boxing people who have worked tirelessly inside and outside the ring.

“This will be a must-read book for all boxing fans in Donegal, and beyond.”

St Johnston native Chris McNulty is sports editor with the Donegal Daily/Donegal Sport Hub websites, and is the publicist for Ballybofey middleweight Jason Quigley.

This will be McNulty’s second book after his 2019 publication ‘Relentless: A Race Through Time’, the memoir of former Irish athletics team manager Patsy McGonagle.

“The idea for the book came by pure accident during the Covid-19 lockdown,” he said.

“In researching for an article I was writing one day, I came on an old notice for the formation of the Donegal Boxing Board and realised that the board was celebrating its 70th anniversary.

“No-one had realised when exactly the board was first formed. After a conversation with Peter O’Donnell, the wheels were very quickly put in motion.

“This book will act as an official history of boxing in Donegal. I felt that, rather than simply focus on the 70 years of the board, it was important to also focus on the sport in the county prior to 1950 and I broadened the focus to include the stories of Donegal’s professional boxers and also those who had success while competing elsewhere.

“I plan to include a list of every Irish champion from Donegal and it is quite an exhaustive list, going back through all grades and years.”

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Boxing