2021 is set to test Cork's boxing clubs like they have never been tested before

Restrictions could continue for indoor sport throughout the year
2021 is set to test Cork's boxing clubs like they have never been tested before

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, John Wiseman, Secretarty of the Cork County Boxing Board and Martin Coughlan of the Cork Ex-Boxers Association pictured at the opening of the Cork Boxing Memoribilia exhibition in Cork City Library last summer. Picture: Doug Minihane

THIS coming year will be a challenge and may test the survival of many Cork clubs both inside and outside the ring.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on all sports, but boxing, Ireland's most successful Olympic sport, will be amongst those hardest hits.

All field sports can resume with far more ease than boxing. 

Last weekend, following a number of phone conversations amongst its officer board members, the County Executive Committee decided to get in touch with every club in the county. These are the clubs, who, over the last eight years, have propelled Cork into one of the most successful units in the country.

This success has been complemented by a County Board that introduced a proactive policy of constant change and revision which has kept the sport sharp in the southern capital.

LACK OF INCOME

The secretary of the board, John Wiseman, who has held that position for the last 15 years, is one of the most experienced and respected officials in the country.

"Many clubs don't seem to realise that the restrictions currently imposed on boxing may continue for much of the coming year. In that period, many clubs could lose their base because of non-payment of rent through no fault of their own."

Lack of income to clubs was a point made to the Taoiseach Michael Martin recently by the President of the Board Michael O'Brien, who explained that through the government lockdown, clubs have been impaired by governmental decisions and lost their capacity to generate revenue.

O'Brien acknowledged that the government, via Sport Ireland, had put in place the Covid-19 resilient grant through the IABA and Sport Ireland.

This amount of circa €1,700 per club was in O'Brien's opinion inadequate, and he told Martin that he considered that this was only feeding crumbs to a sport which was in dire need of a substantial meal.

He reminded the Taoiseach that irrespective of his connections within the sport, that boxing was the flagship of Ireland's Olympic glory where the statistics clearly illustrated that since Ireland's first participation at the Olympics at Paris 1924, Ireland has secured 31 medals, 16 of which have been won by boxers.

"This week the County Board has highlighted the perilous state of the sport and has strongly argued that we, as an association, need the knuckle down collectively to protect the future of boxing, said O'Brien.

"However, the Cork Board can only look after their base and have carefully planned for the sport's resumption."

This plan includes visitations to schools and other promotions. Following recent meetings, these plans will be endorsed by the Cork City Council and the Cork County Council.

The narrative of boxing also needs to be addressed. 

Recent figures suggest that athletes have been participating in the sport up to 18 years of age, and then there is a significant fall off.

The County Board are aware that this anomaly needs to be addressed and are preparing, through their plan, to make provisions to nurture the sport from underage to Olympic levels.

The Covid-19 lockdown has given the Board the opportunity to concentrate on these issues.

In addition to developing the sport amongst the current clubs, the Board has also identified other county locations where they would like to see amateur boxing prosper. These areas include Mallow, Youghal, Fermoy, Bandon Ballinhassig, Passage and Carrigaline.

Progress and contacts have already been made in these areas. However, before any affiliations to any future clubs, the County Board will insist that a full structured committee is in place.

Equally, the Board has identified greater participation from Colleges which will include UCC, CIT and other third-level institutions.

Following the resumption of boxing, the County Board will be well placed to make every effort to ensure that the sport will advance and prosper both in the city and the county.

"This lockdown period has provided the Board with the opportunity to reflect on every aspect of our activities," said John Wiseman.

"We have assured all clubs that we are there at all times to assist in every capacity.

"It is important that in these difficult times that all play their part to ensure the continued success and survival of a sport that has enjoyed a proud tradition on Leeside for over one hundred years."

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