Former World Champion Andy Lee has said his old boxing club St. Francis will turn out more national and potentially even world champions following an investment by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government through Limerick City and County Council that will double the size of the club.
Andy Lee, one of Limerick’s greatest sport stars and its first boxing World Champion, was in the city today to see the premises adjacent to the club that will facilitate its much needed expansion.
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The property was purchased under the local authority’s ambitious Regeneration programme and, according to Lee, the investment will help put young people involved in sport on the right path.
“I know from personal experience and I see it all the time, whether it’s here in St. Francis, in Repton in the UK where I first stepped into a ring, in New York, where I’ve trained, or wherever – involvement in sport changes lives, puts people on a path in life. It teaches you discipline, respect and so much more.
“That’s why this investment here today is so important. You have to invest in young people, give them a purpose. You get a life-long return from it. The St. Francis Club has turned out and still is turning out national champions. That will only increase now with this expansion as double the numbers will be able to train here. Who knows, maybe we already have an up and coming world champion in our midst in the club and that’s something we all dream about.”
Speaking at the event, Limerick Regeneration Office Programme Manager Carmel Kirby said that Andy’s presence today and association with this club will be inspirational to so many young sportsmen. “Limerick has a fantastic sporting history and while we think of rugby, GAA and soccer mostly, Andy and, indeed, Willie Casey, have put boxing right up there with the other codes. He’s an inspirational figure to so many and it’s typical of him to agree to come here for this important day. He was and still is a great champion and one thing that never changes with him is his humility.”
Speaking of the investment, she said: “We are delighted to put this investment into St. Francis Boxing Club which helps us deliver our objectives under the Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan. Not least because of Andy, the club is in the sporting folklore of Limerick and also nationally given that it’s the longest running IABA club in the country. This investment guarantees a bright future for it as well as for the young people attending the club and we are looking forward to watching these children grow and develop over the years.”
Pat Ryan, President of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, likewise, commended the local authority and all involved in the club for their commitment. “This is a great day for St. Francis’ Club and all associated with it. There has been Trojan work done here over the years to keep boxing alive and, indeed, flourishing. It continues to turn out some of the country’s young boxers and will turn out even more now in the years ahead after this investment. Perhaps we have a young Andy Lee already stepping through the ring here today and this investment will go a long way to ensuring that,” he said.
Said St Francis Boxing Club President Noel Griffin; “Today is a dream day for us. We have been constrained in terms of capacity for so long that I expect we will double the members in the club within weeks of the new extension opening.
“We are indebted to Limerick City and County Council, and all at the Regeneration Office, for this. It is a show of great commitment to sport and to giving young children the best possible start in their lives by making sure top notch sports facilities are available for them in the city.”
Saint Francis boxing club was established in 1928. Due to the size of the current premises, it is capped at 40 members.
The club has a strong ethos of respect and 98% of school reports record a huge difference in the concentration levels and discipline of the club’s young members.
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