EYES ON THE PRIZE Thomas Butler is pictured training at Aglish Boxing Club. Pic: Alison Laredo
In 2020 Aglish Boxing Club was hit with two hammer-blows, Covid and the loss of their gym. The club with ten Irish champions faced a bleak future. But now Aglish has found a new home and dreams of four-cornered glory are on the rise again.
IT’S Thursday night in downtown Breaffy.
The rain is pouring out of the heavens and the wind is blowing through the trees but there’s a wonderful energy dancing through the neighbourhood.
The old Cleary’s car sales building which lay vacant for almost a decade is a hive of life, light and activity as sporting dreams take root in what is the new Aglish Boxing Club gym.
The building where tyres were kicked, engines listened to and deals done is now a living breathing boxing emporium. And when The Mayo News came calling we were welcomed with open arms.
“We’re very proud to tell everyone that Aglish Boxing Club is back in business,” Head Coach Gerry Heneghan explained as soon as we stepped through the door. Around him buzzed the business of the bustling gym. Youngsters punched bags hanging from metal brackets, others learned evasion techniques in the middle of the floor, and more practised their craft in the four-cornered ring at one of the building.
Heneghan wore a broad smile as he surveyed the scene in front of him. The Kilmaine man who boxed for 14 seasons with Ballinrobe, before coaching with Castlebar and then Aglish, was comfortable in his surroundings.
“We’re so happy to be here, but it has been some journey,” he told The Mayo News.
“I boxed with Ballinrobe and enjoyed every second of it.
“I represented Ireland four times and after Martina and I were married we moved to Castlebar and I got involved with the club in the town. We had some great times and then I looked at setting up a second club in the town. “Westport has two clubs, Ballina has two clubs, and there was room for a second one in Castlebar so in 2013 we set up Aglish BC.
“We had a premises beside MacHale Park and went from strength to strength. We started winning Mayo titles, then Connacht titles and eventually ten Irish titles.
“In 2020, we were in great shape and had eight boxers ready for Dublin after winning Connacht titles but then Covid struck and we had to close down,” he added sadly.
The following months were testing for humanity as the global pandemic took hold and the future of Aglish BC was tested to the limit.
The owner of their building told them he was selling the premises and the club had to rely on the generosity of Pat Rowland in Elverys to store their equipment.
Sport took a back seat as survival took centre stage but when normality began to return, the Aglish dream began to smoulder again.
“We could have slipped away, but boxing is a huge part of our lives and we were determined to get going again, however it wasn’t easy. We looked for premises and there were lots of them available, but the rents were absolutely crazy and nobody was willing to come on board and give us a chance.
“Then, one day I was driving through Breaffy and the old Cleary’s Garage building caught my eye. I rang Paul Cleary and he said I was welcome to look at it, but the building had been vacant for ten years and was in a bad state.
“He was right. There were branches of trees down through the roof and Ivy growing on the walls inside. “Some of the roof had caved in and it needed a lot of work. We did a deal on the first of July and I spent every single evening and every Saturday and Sunday throughout July and August out here trying to get it right.
“Now we have a really nice gym with a ring, bags, proper flooring and male and female changing and toilet facilities.
“We’re very proud of it and now we’re starting again. We train every Monday and Wednesday from 7pm until 8.15pm and we’re open for business.
“Boxing is the best sport in the world. It has given so much to us and we want to share that with others.
“Aglish Boxing Club is back in business.”