St. Joseph’s ABC is as much a part of the Galliagh and greater Shantallow community as the doctor’s surgery, the post office or the mobile shop.
This year the club will celebrate its 20th anniversary and coach Kevin Duffy believes that all being well St. Joseph’s ABC will continue to produce some of Derry’s most talented and promising young boxers.
St. Joseph’s ABC was founded in 1993 by three Derry men, Paddy Duddy, Pat McLaughlin and ‘Soup’ Campbell. Since that time the club has produced its fair share of Ulster and Irish champions but Kevin Duffy believes that the current crop of young talent have what’s required to take part in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.
“The club has continued to grow over the last 20 years and at present we have about 80 registered members on our books,” explained Kevin.
“I see St. Joseph’s ABC as a very important part of community life here in Galliagh because what the young people are taught to do here can be used as a tool for other aspects of their lives.
“There’s a misconception that boxing is a violent sport. People have to realise that there’s huge difference between amateur and professional boxing. We are an amateur boxing club and safety is always at the top of out agenda.
“When the young people come to the gym, obviously they want to learn to box but they soon realise how disciplined and controlled a sport boxing is - they can use the discipline they learn here to work towards other objectives outside of the ring.”
Like every other amateur boxing club, St. Joseph’s ABC focus a lot of their attention on helping the young and up-and-coming fighters to develop and improve their skills.
Kevin explained that whilst the club are always keen to taste success in the ring, they are more than happy to welcome new members and added that competing in the ring is not mandatory.
“As long the youngsters are nine years-old and over, we will coach them. We have a lot of young ones at the club and some of them are really talented but the thing that never ceases to impress me is the level dedication a 10 year-old boy or girl can give to boxing - it really is amazing.”
Kevin is a full time social worker and when he’s not busy at work he can be found coaching the youngsters in the St. Joseph’s ABC gym near St. Paul’s Primary School in Galliagh.
Kevin is a former Ulster and Irish amateur boxing champion but when he was 18 years-old he hung up his gloves to go and study social work at university. He’s been with St. Joseph’s ABC for the last nine years and has even introduced his 10 year-old daughter, Dearbhla, to the sport.
“I boxed from I was about nine or ten at St. Eugene’s ABC for years but it was through my friendship with fellow St. Joseph’s ABC coach, Cahir Duffy, that I started in here giving him a hand.
“When you see the young boys coming through the doors and getting hooked at an early age it’s fantastic.
“But it’s more than gaining the success, it’s about the camaraderie amongst us, that’s a big thing. The bottom line is that we want success in all aspects, the younger boys look up to the older boys that have achieved success and learn from them in their attitudes.
Recently we’ve had some great success at all levels and we’re in a good position to build on that.
“I can’t keep Dearbhla away from the place. She’s just absolutely mad about boxing. I think it’s great to see a wee girl so young with such enthusiasm for sport. Be it boxing, netball or soccer if children are getting exercise then it has to be seen as a good thing,” he said.
Kevin’s daughter is not the only girl training with St. Joseph’s ABC and Kevin believes the recent popularity of boxing amongst young girls is down to the success of Irish female boxer Katie Taylor who won a gold medal at last summer’s Olympic Games in London.
“It’s great that young people can have a role model like Katie Taylor - she’s such a talented fighter. I think that Katie’s success at the Olympics made young girls believe in themselves more and we have definitely noticed an increase in the number of girls coming through our doors.”
Kevin went on to talk about the promising fighters at the club and made a point of saying that St. Joseph’s ABC owe a lot of their success to the local community.
“We have a lot of support from several local businesses and it helps the club to consistently chase success.
“We have had mixed fortunes throughout the last few years. Connor Coyle, Davy Moore and Davy McFadden have all won Ulster titles and John Cooley has hit the crossbar a few times - John is a great wee fighter and there’s no reason he can’t kick on this year.”
“Connor Coyle did really well at the Ulster Championships and he was very unlucky at the Irish Elite Championships - personally I think Connor should have won but that’s a discussion for another day.
“Kevin McIntyre is a great club man and did well at the Ulster Intermediate Championships.
“There’s also the Glennon brothers, Daithi and Liam. Daithi is Nine Counties Champion and narrowly lost out in the Irish Championships last year but I think he can go one better this year.
“His brother Liam is also a great wee fighter and we have high hopes for both brothers.
“Then there’s a wee lad called Blaine Dobbins. Blaine is a really good fighter and he’s done well at the Irish championships and he narrowly lost out in the Irish U23 championships.
“Georgie Hamilton is a former Nine Counties Champion. Georgie is really determined and we are confident that he can do well during the Ulster Championships this year and maybe even grab a few headlines during the Irish Championships.
“There’s really good talent at this club and I am confident that if everything goes according to plan we might have one or two fighters representing at the Commonwealth Games next year,” he said.
Along with Kevin, Liam McLaughlin, Cahir Duffy, Daniel Doherty and former Ulster Champion Ryan Tracey help coach the fighters at St. Joseph’s ABC.
Kevin said the reason the four of them give up their time is because they love boxing so much but added that in order for St. Joseph’s ABC to develop they will need the help of the community.
“We are working with other groups and organisations to see how we can achieve our dream of a purpose built gym.
“Obviously boxing is all about the smell of the gym and the atmosphere but at the minute we have a roof that leaks every time it rains - it’s not ideal but it’s the best we have at the minute.
“St. Joseph’s ABC are an important part of this community and myself and the other coaches get such satisfaction from seeing the young people do well but if we are to continue to improve and help young people realise success then we are going to need help.
“We are completely self-funded but all help is more than welcome.”
St. Joseph’s ABC train every Monday, Wednesday and Friday out of their gym near Bloomfield Park. All are welcome.