Another Mullingar boxing club is facing into an uncertain future due to pending accommodation problems.
Olympic Boxing Club, Mullingar – the town’s youngest boxing club – has vowed to “fight to the bitter end” Government plans to offer Columb Barracks, Mullingar for sale to private developers, ending the lease enjoyed by numerous sporting and cultural organisations who revitalised the facility since it was decommissioned in 2012.
Derek Sheridan, the club’s secretary, said that the access of some 62 children to a sporting outlet and top quality training is being put in jeopardy due to “bad decisions” being made in local and central government.
“We feel the need to take immediate action in an attempt to put a halt to this unbelievable decision,” said Mr Sheridan, writing to the Westmeath Examiner in response to recent government confirmation of plans to dispose of Columb Barracks for residential building purposes.
The club, which includes former Olympian John Joe Joyce among its highly qualified coaches, is home to seven Irish champions, 12 Leinster champions and 28 Westmeath/Longford champions.
“Our record is second to none, and all of this has been achieved in three short years,” said Mr Sheridan, explaining that the club’s development of facilities at Columb Barracks has greatly aided its progress.
“We believe that if the Government go ahead with this decision and dump us out on the street, they should provide suitable accommodation to cater for the needs of more than 60 children – a membership that is growing.”
The club secretary called on the people of Mullingar, Westmeath and beyond to help them in their battle for accommodation.
He paid tribute to Olympian Joyce, who made the decision to devote himself to coaching at the club after recognising the need for an outlet for children “roaming the streets and housing estates of Mullingar”.
Mr Sheridan, whose son Tadhg is one of the club’s national champions, said that Olympic Boxing Club fulfils an important function in social cohesion, pointing out that the club caters for a combination of settled, Traveller and non-national members.
“We have built a very close relationship between all the children involved in the club, a relationship which we believe will quickly spread throughout the entire area,” he said.
“There is a price to pay for every bad decision taken by national and local governments, and it’s not always a financial cost. Can we afford to simply forget about our children by taking away this positive facility and leave the kids to their own devices during the dark winter months?”
Mr Sheridan conceded that if the club cannot find suitable accommodation after being evicted from Columb Barracks, then the committee would have no alternative other than to close the club.
Earlier this year, the Westmeath Examiner reported that the future of another local boxing club, Mullingar Elite BC, was in doubt after it was announced that the premises it occupies at Lough Sheever Corporate Park was to be put up for sale.
“Mullingar needs at least two boxing clubs right now,” added Mr Sheridan, referring to Elite’s plight. “One club couldn’t handle the number of local children with a keen interest in the sport.”