Photos by Conal Thomas

“We’re going up against a brick wall,” says Paddy Corcoran, who’s worked as a coach at Corinthians Boxing Club since 1998.

Since the club first opened its doors off Bella Place in Summerhill nearly 20 years ago, Corcoran and a handful of other locals have trained young lads from around the area. But it recently became clear that the space was no longer safe.

The building needs to be fireproofed which will cost €17,000, says Corcoran. And that’s a sum that’s hard to come by.

For the past few months, kids from the area have had to train elsewhere, wherever they can get find a free ring and a few pairs of gloves. Most recently it’s been St Saviour’s on Dorset Street.

With a recent injection of central-government funding into the north-east inner city, Corcoran and fellow trainer Anto Daly wonder why they can’t be thrown a few bob. Corinthians feels forgotten.

Part of that may have to do with the name on the building’s deed.

Training Day

Corcoran stood at the entrance to the Corinthians building on Monday evening, gear on, ready for a session with the dozen or so lads waiting upstairs.

There is a sign over the door, but with its closed steel shutters and brick after brick of exposed concrete, the club looks like a long-shut shop.

“You managed to find the place,” he laughs.

Upstairs, lads ranging from eight to 18, muck about near the boxing ring at the centre of the room. It’s the one from the film In the Name of the Father and was donated by director Jim Sheridan.

Photos of former champions and past victories line the mirrored wall opposite the ring. One face in particular stands out.

When Gerry Hutch bought the building in 1998, he gave the boxing club a freehold lease of 99 years, and served as the club’s treasurer for a time.

But with Hutch’s departure abroad in recent years, the club has been left to fend for itself, says Martin Kelly, who’s been involved since day one.

Hutch, convicted of numerous armed robberies, is in an ongoing feud with the Kinahan crime cartel. Between September 2015 and August 2016, 11 men have been murdered as part of the feud. 

“He’s gone. We don’t see him now,” says Kelly, of Hutch. “But it shouldn’t interfere with the well-being of the club, the coaches and the children.”

Corcoran says the club’s history has meant that it has been a challenge to try raise the funds to keep afloat. The building can only be used for recreation or community use.

With the Hutch name so closely linked with Corinthians, help hasn’t been forthcoming. Local businesses aren’t interested, he says, and Dublin City Council have yet to offer any funding to help fireproof the building.

“We’re caught in a catch-22,” he says. “So what’s the solution?”

Safe Space

Were Corinthians Boxing Club to close, it could prove problematic for the local community, says trainer Anto Daly.

Each of the three trainers gives their time each week after work to drill the youngsters from Summerhill, he says.

Subs for the club are only €2 per day, which about covers the gas and electricity. “Some weeks we’ll only get €10 in subs,” says Daly. Often, he and Corcoran allow kids in to train for free or just to give them something to do, somewhere to go.

“There’s two kids who come down here. Their mother and father are both heroin addicts,” says Corcoran. “They come down here for a wash. I’m not gonna turn them away.”

Corcoran’s cousin Kevin, who helps out at Corinthians, says he worries about what the knock-on effects of the club’s closure could be. “They’d be out robbing cars if they weren’t in here,” he says. “That’s the truth.”

Some of the kids who come through Corinthians Boxing Club are out of control at first, says Daly.

“Then they come in here, they start getting a bit of respect,” he says. “Their parents say, ‘That young fella’s changed. He was hittin’ people in the face.’ Then they know not to hit outside the ring.”

But the kids are dedicated to the sport too, says Daly. “We won two gold medals recently and four silvers [at county level],” he says. “Not bad for a club that’s on its knees.”

They’ve made applications for funding, phone calls to supporters, and pleas to local councillors. But it’s come to naught so far, says Corcoran.

In the coming months, they plan to kick-off a fundraising campaign of sorts. With full-time jobs, though, dedication can taper away.

“You’d be bangin’ your head off a wall,” says Daly. “This is our last shot.”

The Towel

Martin Kelly had hoped that some of the government’s initial €4.7 million injection into the north-east inner city would come Corinthians’ way.

Of that €4.7 million, €2.7 million has been spent or allocated to physical infrastructure and €1 million on sports facilities.

Kelly also hoped that developers building student accommodation nearby might help the club cover the €17,000 needed to fireproof the building. But that hasn’t worked out either.

“If these works don’t go ahead, eventually the club will have to close,” he says. “I can understand, though. There’s so many people looking for finance in the area.”

Social Democrats Councillor Gary Gannon, who got involved with the club recently, said it would be folly to let Corinthians close.

Sporting facilities are key to the local community “especially one that works at such front level with kids who are at quite a significant disadvantage”, he says.

Dublin City Council should help the club out in some way, possibly through sports grants, he says. “It’s not an exceptional amount of money that they need to bring the place back.”

As Gannon sees it, the future of Corinthians is what matters rather than its past history with Hutch.

It’s unclear just how much Hutch’s involvement with Corinthians has hampered efforts to raise funds.

But whether or not the club would be in a better position financially if he were on the scene is a moot question, says Corcoran. “You’ll never see him again. He moved away from all this [violence] because he saw it coming down the line.”

What’s left now of his old club is three trainers and a group of local kids. “We’ll fight to the end to keep this place open,” says Daly.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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