A number of young boxers from Ardee Boxing Club are gearing up for the Louth Open Championships this month, with training continuing apace three times a week ahead of what is expected to be a fiercely contested start to the boxing season.
With the club’s ever expanding young membership in training since September, next week’s Championship will mark the start of the competitive season for the boxers – and there is high hopes amongst coaches at the club that the Ardee youngsters can hold their own against other competitors from Louth, Meath, Dublin, Westmeath, Down and Armagh.
In total, young hopefuls from 22 different clubs competed in last year’s Louth Open Championships, held over four days in Omeath and Duleek. Growing ever popular, boxing is a highly competitive field even in Louth. Last year, 10 of the 22 clubs taking part were in Louth.
This time around, boxers will fight in O’Hanlon Boxing Club and Drogheda Boxing Club, with weigh-ins taking place this Sunday in advance of the event.
Founded in early 2012 by Mickey McGahon and Philip Synnott, the club started life at base at the Enterprise Centre before moving to their town-centre base, an essentially purpose built facility on John Street. As Irish boxers have excelled in top level competition, interest has heightened steadily over the years and numbers have increased.
Around 40 kids train weekly with the club, aged between seven and 17. Now, the club are assembling a small but talented group of up-and-comers year-on-year, something coach Robbie McKeever believes should be the aim for a club of ABC’s size.
“You can’t officially box until your 11, you can’t compete in Championships. Now, there’s Louths, Leinsters and if they win, the All-Irelands,” McKeever tells ThisIsArdee.ie. Among the entrants to the Louth Open Championships in 2017 are three newcomers as well as the highly rated Nathan Halpenny and Paul Clinton, who made the semis in his weight last year, in his first season in the sport.
The current group of youngsters who will be boxing in the upcoming competition include (as pictured above) – Micheal Doherty, Tiernan Pickett, Halpenny, Clinton, Jamie McMahon and Sean Kindlon – and a big few months await for the six.
McKeever believes the diminutive McMahon is one to watch. “Jamie McMahon is a new lad – he’s only up at the club two months. You’d know he’s good. You just know by his feet and hands. It’s natural to him.
“If you get them early – at that age – they take things on fairly quickly. If I see them progress, they can come into the ring,” he says.
“Paul was beat in the semi-final by another chap from Ardee, Jack Dowdall. You have clubs from everywhere. The lad that beat Jack in the final went on to win the All-Ireland. The standard is very high. This is what they’re training for.
“If they want to stay away from the stronger lads, they need to make the right wait. This is it. The season starts now for them.
The club – under the stewardship of McKeever and fellow coaches Gary McKenny and Brendan Clinton – bring their young competitors on the road to spar on a regular basis, offering them an opportunities to experience what other clubs have to over and to get to fighting weight.
“We go sparring every week – Dublin, Coolock, Duleek, Drogheda, Dundalk. Those clubs are in the same boat. You go down and try and match weights. It’s sparring that makes them. It’s experience,” he says.
Adam Farrell, now with Holy Family Boxing Club in Ballsgrove, was with Ardee last year and as part of being selected in the Leinster Development Squad, he went to Russia and came home with a silver medal for his efforts. McKeever says the current crop have it in them to go even further than the teenager from Collon.
“The youngsters here have potential. Them young boys have plenty of potential,” he states. “If you produce two or three boxers a year that’s good enough to go to those competitions, that’s what we’d be looking for. There’s no point sending lads to competitions and then they can’t compete.
He says the fact the sports popularity is growing has a knock-on effect, especially at smal clubs like ABS. “It’s growing. If you get them young, they have all the chances.”
McKenny takes adult training sessions at the club’s gym base, something which pays the rent and allows the youngsters to use the facility regularly and flourish within the walls. Support from the likes of Andy Lee, a friend of the club, helps too.
A big week awaits the club’s young boxers next week. They’ll have to work for any success they get. It won’t be easy as 123.
You can view a full gallery of images from our recent visit to Ardee Boxing Club for a Monday evening training session by clicking here.