09 November 2008 – By Steve Wellings
Its easy to drive past and miss Townlands ABC while negotiating the country lanes of rural Antrim, but tucked away on the outskirts of Glenavy the reformed club now has a secure home in St. Patricks Hibernian hall.
The large building lends itself to as many as 120 aspiring young pugilists on at least three nights of the week, with experienced trainers Tommy Quinn and Martin Brady pushing them on towards amateur competition.
Quinn first got involved in the area by popular demand, four years previous. A lot of parents came and asked me to open a club, he explained. I had been with the Immaculata club for a long time, working with Gerry Nugent and I was asked to open a club in the Crumlin area so I left Immaculata and opened Townlands for the first time about four years ago.
As quickly as the doors opened success followed and Quinn was soon in need of a bigger trophy cabinet. In two seasons we lifted 36 titles from lads who had never boxed before. What happened then was that the priest needed the premises back and we were left without a home, he said.
I left and went down to Saints club in Twinbrook where we lifted 34 titles and there were a lot of lads from Crumlin who moved across with me. Two of the boys went on to win the four nations and we picked up Ulster and Irish titles
Quinns reputation and no nonsense style breeds champions, with a talent for taking lads that have never laced up the gloves before and turning them into competent boxers and many into titlists. Just from watching the youngsters sparring in the ample ring situated to the left of the entrance door- you can see the basics are already instilled. Tight guard, solid jab and head movement from lads, many of whom are novices and newcomers to the noble art.
Quinn continues: One youngster won silver in the worlds and two won bronze in the Europeans. My own son won the Irish cadets and the [reputable] Gallagher brothers won titles with my son eventually losing the All-Irelands final on a single point.
What the area needed was a permanent home for the boxers and when the chance to claim premises in Glenavy arrived, the team jumped at it.
We then got the opportunity to use St. Clares Hall and we opened up in August with [Irish Olympic medallist] Paddy Barnes giving a talk to the kids. The club opened with about 120 members which still stands, and then we moved down to the Hibernian Hall, taking it as our own premises. We had to leave the previous hall before 8pm and take all our stuff down, plus we couldnt have a ring up permanently in there.
The new hall is spacious, clean and the stage at the back has been converted into an area for exercise bicycles and storage for gloves and equipment. Fight posters are stapled to the roof and a row of punching bags adorn the right hand wall.
We have a ring, toilets, changing rooms and were getting showers in for the lads, adds Coach Martin Brady, a former amateur champion in the 1960s.
Ive been boxing for about three years now and Im a Ricky Hatton fan, explains popular heavyweight Jamie McGann, who is training for amateur competitions.
61kg hopeful Damien Burke has returned to boxing after a short hiatus, being inspired into the code by the original Hands of Stone Roberto Duran.
Despite suffering his first loss, professional prodigy Amir Khan remains a popular inspiration inside the gym. I still like Amir Khan, says Mark Hamill, a 65kg expectant, while classy southpaw Scott Taylor shows a pleasing style and a sound technique as he takes his turn sparring McGann and Michael Loney. Im a fan of Martin Lindsay and hopefully I can get into the ring soon to test myself, Taylor shouts across the ring apron, getting his breath back.
Amateur tournaments and club shows are the lifeblood of grass roots boxing and the lads are busy training for the opposition. All systems are go! says Tommy Quinn. Our novices are already involved in shows and were training towards the Ulsters and getting good outside recognition.
The general aim is to organise home shows so we can showcase our up and coming talent.
Coaching aptitude plays a huge part in the process and a bunch of beginners can quickly become sound technicians. Quinn gives a wry smile before offering his prognosis, I take lads who have never boxed before and turn them into champions.
Watch this space.