By Jimmy Rhatigan
Pics: Terry Campion
FOR YEARS it was the local Ballroom of Romance.
Nowadays, there is no love lost in the dancing venue where courtships began and friendships blossomed.
Thanks to the generosity of local hotel owners, Nicholas and Margaret the spacious room at their Urlingford Arms is now home to Urlingford Boxing Club that boasts many champions on two feet, just like many of the dancers of yore.
Where once there was smooch waltzing, there are now uppercuts, jabs and haymakers as talented male and female boxers are put to their paces in in preparation for national competitions as Urlingford BC continues to pack its trophy cabinet.
The irony is that the original boxing club which had its home at the rear of The Mason’s Apron, died a death when The Apron closed its doors.
The present head coach at Urlingford BC was a young boxer in that club and today he is delighted to be keeping the flag flying for a proud Kilkenny, Tipperary border town that boasts nifty pugilists from both sides of the great divide.
The Arms Ballroom has been the boxing HQ for six years and the club is delighted to have a long term agreement and great rapport and support from the Healy family.
Punch bags hang from the ceiling and a grand tourney is held on the October Bank Holiday every year, a prestigious event that attracts boxers from all over Ireland and is a great fund-raiser to boot.
Prizes are specially commissioned boxing belts that are prized pieces for young champs.
The event attracts up to 400 boxing aficionados and is a great showpiece for a thriving club.
Now in off season, the club boasts 80 members, a number that will swell to 100 plus when the new season begins in September.
Children as young as 8 and up to 11 are coached by Elizabeth Stokes and Marie Thompson, gingerly encouraged until they are eligible for competition aged 11 and can, should they desire, continue to enjoy boxing until aged 40.
Coaches Stewart Leahy and Tom Stokes also delighted in putting the boxers through their paces every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 6.30pm to 9pm, along with sparring sessions in Paulstown, thanks to head coach Ollie O’Neill and Callan Boxing Club by invitation from head coach Jimmy Walsh and coach John Hickey.
Urlingford BC has just completed a fantastic season. Rachel Ivors, 15 this year is three times Irish champion, all girl Esker, Dublin champ and Michael Andrews champion.
Michael Anthony McCarthy, aged 14, is Monkstown champion, Michael Andrews champ and an Irish finalist this year.
Hannah McCarthy also won an Irish title which gave the club two female winners out of five boxers who qualified for finals.
The club also boasted three All-Ireland finalists and runners-up in the Monkstown Cup, David Doyle, Peter McCarthy and Johnny Donoghue.
Adding to the local talent are boxers who travel from Clonmel, Cahir and Tipperary Town. Urlingford’s brilliant reputation is ensuring that the club continues to spread its wings.
“We get fantastic support from our local community and our local business are tremendous when it comes to sponsorship.
“We are particularly grateful to John Staunton of McStan Homes who have given us a cheque to purchase further equipment for our club.
“It is people like John and our good friend Councillor Mick McCarthy from Freshford who takes great interest in the club and gives us powerful advice, who are ensuring that our comparatively young club is now a rival for the best in Ireland,” said Pat Stokes.
“We are flying the flag for Urlingford, for Kilkenny, for Tipperary and also for Leinster Boxing, so we have many sporting irons in a fire that is blazing brightly for local sport.”