A NORTHSIDE boxing club waiting nine years for a new premises has been forced to turn away hundreds of kids because of its cramped facilities.
Swords Boxing Club is inundated every week with parents and their children who want to join the club but they all have to be turned away.
John Sheppard, coach and joint secretary of the club, said its membership and criteria is severely restricted because it is trying to operate from three small rooms in Carnegie Library, located on North Street, Swords.
“If we had the space we could literally treble our numbers overnight and that’s not an exaggeration,” Mr Sheppard told Northside People.
“Each week we get as many as 40 new kids coming to us asking to join up but we simply can’t accommodate them.
“We are full to capacity at 35 members and it breaks my heart to have to turn children away.”
The popularity of boxing has exploded since the Olympics when Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin and Michael Conlon all returned home with medals.
More and more children want to take up the sport in the hope that they too will represent Ireland in the Olympics in years to come.
“Boxing is becoming increasingly popular among children, not just boys but girls as well,” Mr Sheppard explained.
“We were inundated with new members wanting to join after the Beijing Olympics four years ago. “Unfortunately we are in the exact same position as we were then in terms of our capacity and facilities.”
The club’s membership is restricted to children aged 10 and 11, which is considered the optimum time to teach children a new sport.
Membership of the club is free of charge and the three coaches offer their services voluntarily.
The facilities are rent free, which Mr Sheppard believes is justified given their condition.
“If we had the space there wouldn’t be a problem but as it is we’re stretched,” he stated.
“The small ring that we have fills one entire room and we don’t have a dressing room.
“There’s no way we could even dream of taking on any female members because there isn’t even another toilet for them to change in.
“We can only do the best we can and make the kids as good as they can be.”
Mr Sheppard was critical of Fingal County Council, which he said regularly outlines its position in relation to its efforts to find alternative accommodation for the club with a “generic” statement.
Swords ward councillor Darragh Butler (FF) recently asked the council if any progress had been made in finding the club a new home.
A spokesperson for the council said its sports office has had a number of contacts with the club regarding their requirements for a new location for their activities.
“These contacts were with a view to exploring how boxing in general might be supported/assisted by utilising our shared facilities,” the spokesperson said.
“The possibility that the club could hire space in one of the new or proposed community or sports centres in the area has been considered.
“However, it is proving very difficult to see how boxing can be accommodated in what are multi or general purpose halls due to the requirement for a ring.
“The presence of a ring renders the hall unsuitable for a variety of other sports.”