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The facilities weren’t always so sparse at Edenmore Boxing Club.

A single black punching ball hangs from the ceiling on the left side of the room. To the right, three different coloured punching bags of varying shapes and sizes.

There’s no boxing ring, no bell, and photos of the club’s past glories were taken down when the room was painted, and never went up again.

On Monday evening, a dozen or so kids sprint the length of the gym hall that Edenmore calls home. A few break away, and try their luck.

“We’re going for a jog outside,” they try to tell, in unison, the club secretary, David Moore. Moore shuts that idea down, not without supervision.

Next April, the Edenmore Boxing Club will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Moore and the club’s president, Theresa Kelly, are hoping for a more permanent set-up by then.

Rise and Fall

Moore has been involved with the club since 1982.

As he tells it, Edenmore is behind the times, playing catch-up with other Dublin boxing clubs. For nearly five decades, he says, it has been an integral part of the community.

“It’s very important [to the community], extremely important. You have at least 30 kids, and if we got a new place you’d have at least 40 kids,” he says. “So you’d have 40 less kids hanging around the shops.”

Tucked away in a housing estate, St Monica’s Youth Centre currently hosts the weekly boxing sessions.

It’s a far cry from the 1980s, when the club produced All-Ireland boxing finalists, says Moore. Few of the young lads stick around for long these days.

“They come in here and their confidence won’t be that great,” he says. “So they build themselves up, and then a couple of years later, after looking at other clubs, they decide, ‘I can do it much better down there than I can here,’ and that’s the problem.”

The kids sprint across the wooden floor, the thump of their feet echoing through the space. Moore watches them, as a young coach spars one-on-one with another boy.

A number of the trainers have given up hope for the club, says Moore. Until they get a permanent home with proper facilities, what’s the point?

“It’s soul-destroying for the head coaches,” he says. “Me, I don’t get too attached because I never boxed, but at the same time I’ve a passion for looking after them. I mean my family have been here since day one.”

For the past few years, residents of Edenmore, the management team of the club, and local councillors have been imploring Dublin City Council to help them find a more suitable, permanent home.

Support for the club comes from the small fee they charge to use the gym hall, says Moore. There is little funding from the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA), a €1,000 grant a year if they’re lucky.

“Boxing is very healthy in Ireland, and in Dublin and the people in IABA are so nice, they look after you so well, but they can’t give you the big grants that you need,” says Moore. “They can’t give you the support they want to give you.”

Elsewhere in Dublin, in clubs like Baldoyle, Docklands and Darndale, the facilities are top-notch by comparison, says Moore.

Frustrated with losing so many keen young boxers from around the area to other clubs, Edenmore Boxing Club’s revival is dependent on a new facility.

Edenmore boxer Johnny McEvoy’s international debut. Photo courtesy of Theresa Kelly.

A New Push

The president of Edenmore Residents’ Association and Edenmore Boxing Club, Theresa Kelly, is hopeful the council can find the club a permanent home.

Two months ago, Kelly started a new campaign to seek support from those who live in the area. “Edenmore is an amazing community, and no matter what we ask of them, they’re amazing,” she says. “We just need them to come in behind us on this.”

In 1982, the previous clubhouse burnt down, and the club moved to St Malachy’s Boys School down the road. A few years ago, the club moved again to St Monica’s which has kept it alive but it’s not sustainable, says Kelly.

“A lot of good boxers have left the club,” she says. “They’ve left the club because some of the coaches take them sparring to other clubs, so they’re not only sparring with their own crowd. But when they go and see the facilities in the other clubs, they come back very disheartened.”

“That is in no way reflecting on the youth centre, who have been very good to them,” she says. “But, unfortunately, the youth centre is a very busy centre.”

Kelly says that to construct the makeshift boxing ring takes almost an hour and a half. Because the centre is busy, the boxing training can only take place twice a week: Mondays and Thursdays from 7pm to 9pm.

Since her campaign kicked off, Kelly says a number of young lads – both boxers and trainers – have slowly returned to the club in the hope of a more permanent home.

There is a Dublin City Council depot, not far from the youth centre, which the council is currently looked at moving out of, said a spokesperson from the council press office. Edenmore President Kelly reckons this could be ideal.

“Hopefully, community games could be run out of there,” she says. “It’s big enough to make into a hub for the athletics people in the area so that it stops the antisocial behaviour, so they’ve something to do in the night-time.”

A Home

The council, however, says that there’s no timeline for this happening, and that the building might not be appropriate for the club.

“The suitability of a depot building for this purpose might also be an issue, as the buildings have not been constructed to the standard or dimensions required for a sports or boxing club,” said a spokesperson from the press office. “All options will continue to be explored by Dublin City Council to facilitate the club.”

A recent trip to Darndale Boxing Club cemented Kelly’s resolve to continue the campaign, she said. “I actually walked out with tears in my eyes when I saw the facilities that were over there compared to what our lads have.”

The council say it cannot guarantee Edenmore a permanent home, but that the campaign is being taken seriously by staff.

“Dublin City Council staff have visited the boxing club while training is in session to assess the scope of activity and hence the space requirements,” said the press office spokesperson, by email.

Council officials have been asking around, looking at their own properties and privately owned ones to find something suitable. “This has proved challenging thus far,” said the spokesperson.

One of the challenges is that boxing clubs generally need a permanent ring, which often rules out spaces with loads of different sports.

Members of the club are still positive, though, says Kelly.

This year, two of the club’s boxers reached the National Under 18s Championship, which takes places in the National Stadium on the South Circular Road.

The future’s still shaky though. “Let’s put it this way – we’re not giving up. Because if we don’t secure a permanent premises, we will lose all the young boxers from the area,” she says. “It’s as simple as that.”

Cónal Thomas

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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