Another significant milestone was achieved by Neilstown Boxing Club recently when the north Clondalkin club celebrated its 35th anniversary.
Having been the testing ground for Dublin, All-Ireland, European and Olympic champions, Neilstown has been a significant presence in the local community over its history, and remains the longest existing boxing association in the area.
From its humble beginnings in 1979 in the school hall in St Peter the Apostle school to its current new facilities which were opened in 2010 after years of campaigning and fundraising, the club has come a very long way, to the extent that it now trains approximately 80 boys and girls, many of whom are on the path to local and national success.
Speaking after the event last week, founding member of the club Gerry Fleming spoke about the anniversary celebrations.
“The event was brilliant, it was a great turnout. There were 100 people invited, mostly founder members and former coaches and their families. The room was transformed into a ballroom for the night, and there were presentations, and there were 10 exhibition bouts on the night as well.”
Present for the celebrations on the evening were local politician and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald, Olympic athlete Eamon Coghlan, and a host of guests from different boxing clubs throughout the country from as far afield as Mayo, Galway and Tipperary.
Also present was Neilstown’s own boxing Olympic legend, Kenneth Egan, taking a break from the campaign trail to bring some additional gloss to proceedings, and he told GazetteSport about what attending the anniversary celebrations meant to him.
“It was great to be there and be part of the celebration. I have been a member of the club since I was eight years of age, and I’m 32 now. It was founded back in 1979 when it was a school hall, and that’s what I remember of it back in the day. We had to go in at 6pm to hang up the bags and erect the boxing ring and then take it all back down after the session was over.
“I remember when I was eight, my eldest brother William was a boxer and he was an Irish champion. He took me to the club for the first time, and there was a load of animals painted on the walls, as it was a primary school hall. I couldn’t work this out, it was meant to be a boxing club. But once the bags were up, that all changed,” said Egan.
“I have had some great days at the club. My first All-Ireland title came representing Neilstown at the National Stadium. I think the discipline and resilience that the club taught me, when the sport didn’t go my way, and the coaches and the staff and my family made me come back time and again, all meant that I brought back the Olympic medal. When you were questioning yourself, they kept me coming back and aiming higher.”
Fleming also explained that the success of Katie Taylor has had its own impact on the club.
“Up until we got the new facilities, we couldn’t cater for girls at the club. We have a good female membership now, and it is getting bigger. We had Katie out a couple of months after the Olympics in 2012, when she came and helped to run a training camp with the girls, which gave the club a great boost.
“We have, I think, between last season and this season won seven county Dublin titles with our female boxers, and one girl reached the semi-finals of the All-Ireland championships this year, losing out to the eventual winner from Cork. It is progressing steadily.”
Both Egan and Fleming were united in their praise for the club and its members throughout the years, and were equally unanimous as to what they hope for the club going forward.
“Not every kid who goes to the club will be an Olympian, but if we can get one in the next number of years, that would be special,” said Egan.
“For me, boxing is about getting kids active, off the street and out of trouble, and Neilstown looks for the talent among the kids who go along.”
Fleming stated: “I would hope to build on the success we have had in the last 35 years in the years to come.”