Shane McHugh & Barry Gillespie are the Finn Valley Centre’s Community Heroes for this February.
These two individuals give much of their time to the club and live and breathe the sport of boxing, carrying on a tradition that started in the 1950’s with the then St. Malachy’s Boxing Club.
Local man Shane McHugh, the son of Meena and David McHugh Carn Ballybofey has been involved with the Twin Towns Boxing Club since the age of 19, now aged 40 he continues to be involved on a five day a week basis with the club.
As a child, Shane attended Glencovitt National School and it was there he was introduced to a range of sports by his principal Eamonn McDonald and fellow teacher, Sheila McGlinchey R.I.P. who both went to great lengths to support all the sporting interests of their students. The late Anthony Gillespie R.I.P. the school caretaker at the time who had a great love of boxing also had a hand in inspiring Shane to get involved in boxing. Although he was involved in many different sports, Shane always had a love for boxing which he developed watching his childhood hero Barry McGuigan who inspired him, however living in the country meant it was not always easy to get to boxing as a child and it wasn’t until the age of 19 that he became more involved with the club as a competitor. He competed at a local level from 1996 and took part in local club fights for the next three years. During this time, he also helped with training other competitors. He is also quick to say that he attributes everything he knows about boxing including training, coaching, corner man and pad work to his good friend Barry Gillespie.
Shane spends most of his time helping the club out and training young competitors. He is also involved in helping on a day to day basis as part of a TUS programme five days per week. This involved anything from maintenance to cleaning and upkeeping as well as some training.
In the evenings, he is always there training competitors and preparing for upcoming bouts. He is currently involved in the training of competitors from age 11 upwards which involves, running, circuits, technical work, sparring and advice on fight strategy while also studying form of opponents for upcoming bouts and putting preparations in place for competitors’ future bouts. These preparations involve time watching video of opponents to study their fighting style which is done on top of all the other face to face training, but is equally important in terms of competitive advantage. This is something that all trainers in the club do on a regular basis working very much as a collective with each bringing their own skillset to the club. Although training is usually three nights per week the trainers are mostly in five nights putting time into preparation for competitions. Training usually starts at 7pm in the evenings and finished about 9.30pm so there is massive commitment involved. Trainers in the club regularly take competitors most weekends to bouts, club shows, Donegal’s, North West and All Irelands so the work doesn’t end on a Friday evening.
Barry Gillespie is the son of Linda & Patrick Gillespie, Carraighmagrath. Prior to boxing he was involved in many sports including athletics, handball, soccer, karate & soccer but once he started boxing that was it, he was hooked.
He became involved as a competitor with the Twin Towns Boxing Club in 1997 while he was a pupil in Sessiaghoneill National School aged 13. He had his first fight at age 14 and continued to box in the coming years in both national and international bouts travelling to Italy and Finland as well as the U.K and throughout Ireland. He represented Ireland and was the Irish tittle holder at ages of 16 and 19.
Barry continued boxing competitively up the age of 29 while also being involved as a coach at the club. He began coaching in 2004 and continues till the present, and, like Shane this involves a great commitment to being there for training five nights a week as well as going to tournaments almost every weekend.
There is such a strong tradition of boxing in both his mothers and fathers side which goes back three generations that it must have been preordained that he would develop a love of the sport.
His grandfather on his mother’s side, Conal Breslin was originally from Ardara and moved to Killybegs when he married his grandmother Margaret, where he became a member of the first GAA Club there. This was followed by his cousins Donal, Stephen and Pauric Breslin who all boxed out of the Killybegs club in the 90’s and 2000’s.
Today his grandmother Margaret is still and avid fan of boxing and sport in general and can be found with the rosary beads in hand whenever her beloved Donegal team are playing.
The Gillespie side of the family is no different with a long tradition of boxing with his grandfather Eddie boxing out of the local St. Malachy’s which was the forerunner of the TT Boxing Club. His uncles Willie and Hughie as well as his father Patrick were also involved in the club when it started in 1979 and into the 80’s.
Barry was acquainted with his future wife, Jackie’s grandfather, uncle and sister through boxing before he met met her. This strong family tradition continued after his marriage to Jackie who took up boxing to keep fit as a white collar competitor initially, but has since become the National Novice Champion. This is a first in the Irish boxing world where a husband and wife are both national title holders. The couple also have two daughters Aobhinn and Aoife who will no doubt carry on the tradition in time.
Even on their wedding day Barry’s best men, Kevin Gillespie, Michael Rushe and Anthony Deasley where all boxers. To add to this John Anderson who was Barry’s coach ended up getting married to his aunt Teresa.
Barry works as a fulltime carer for his grandmother, Margaret Breslin who is a hale and hearty 91 and spends his evenings at the club training club members as well as developing nutrition plans for members.
It’s not unusual for Barry to be at the National Stadium in Dublin at the weekend and arriving back only to leave for another competition somewhere else so the commitment is massive for all the trainers in the club.
As well as the everyday maintenance, upkeep and training that takes place there is the matter of keeping the show on the road financially. There is always a constant struggle to keep up with the bills and costs associated with running a successful club. All those involved put their shoulder to the wheel when it comes to fundraising and this takes place in the form of home tournaments, white collar boxing events, street collections, and the organising of other events throughout the year. The members including the committee, trainers and competitors also take part in the Airtricity walk which they are grateful for, and they would also acknowledge the great support of local businesses. Club shows are also run but they just about break even after they pay for venue hire, trophies, officials, doctor and fees to the county board. That said these types of events run by the various sporting clubs in the Twin Towns bring revenue into the area as people attend them, and, at a micro economic level are good for the local community.
Twin Towns Boxing Club
The Twin Towns Boxing Club has been built on a strong tradition of boxing that goes back to St. Malachy’s Boxing Club which was formed by the G.A.A. in the area. They have a membership of up to 30 both male and female boxers as well as some who train with the club to keep fit but are not competitors. They have a very active committee who meet on a monthly basis at their base in Dunfrill House.
The current committee is as follows’ Brian Anderson, Treasurer; Paul Brady, President; Karen Anderson, Secretary; John McGee, Ass. Secretary; Thomas McMenamin, Vice President; Danny Tourish, Ass Treasurer; Linda McMenamin, Child Protection.
The gym in Dunfrill House is a testament to the hard work put in by all the committee, trainers and members many of whom give freely of their time and talents. When the club moved in they essentially had a basement with bare walls that even required plastering. The club even took to sourcing what they could from skips and were fortunate to be able to put all the mirrors in place this way. Today it is a state of the art gym that many clubs would be proud of and finished with fabulous murals done by Geroid McCafferty. When you stop to think that Katie Taylor, Olympic Gold Medallist in 2012, was training out of a gym that didn’t have proper toilets, it is a credit to a club situated in a small town in rural Donegal to be able to provide such state of the art facilities.
The club is open every day from 6-9.30am and the standard training days are Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s however there’s something going on every day with preparations for upcoming bouts etc. Shane also opens the club every morning from 10am to 1pm and is on hand to help with training aspects for those who can attend during this time. In recent times, they have introduced Oisin Merritt every Tuesday and Thursday who runs keep fit classes for women.
The club were represented at the following tournaments in the past year.
The Celtic Cup an International tournament held in Waterford where they had three competing last September coming home with two medals which is excellent for a small club as they were competing against countries such as Australia, Holland Canada.
They had one competitor competing who reached the semi-final in the Seniors held in the National Stadium in Dublin which was a competition between all Irish Clubs.
The have had competitors in the Europeans, Ulster’s and the 9 County Novices with 2/3 boxers for each age group.
The Novice National Championships and the U22 National Championships were held in January 2017 in Dublin where Jackie Gillespie became National Champion and Ciara Anderson reached the Semi-final of the U22’s. See the table below for a list of all title holders with the club.
The club also have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/twintowns.boxingclub which they can be contacted on for further details or to join contact Shane McHugh 087/2179189 or Brian Anderson on 087/9188048. Best wishes to Shane and Barry for giving their time to this interview and indeed to all the club committee, members and trainers who collectively are keeping the sport of boxing to the forefront. New members are encouraged to come along, get involved and be a part of what will, without doubt, be the next chapter in the long running tradition of boxing in the Twin Towns.
All Ireland Champions
|Title||No. of Titles|
|Conor Quigley||Youth 2||1|
|Barry Gillespie||Youth & Intermediate||2|
|Steven O’Reilly||Boys 2,3,4 Youth 1,2 U21’s & Colleges||10|
|Danny Tourish||Boy 3, U21, Colleges||4|
|Stephen Stokes||Boy2,3,4 & Youth 2||4|
|Donna Barr||Novice, U21 & Intermediate||3|
|Ciara Anderson||Girl 5,6||2|