Kieran Honan black belt kickboxing instructor and Sarah O'Shea 2nd degree black belt kickboxing instructor at the Limerick Combat Gym | Picture: Dave Gaynor
A LIMERICK kickboxing club that has established itself as one of the most successful in Ireland is at risk of closing down if it cannot find a permanent home.
Limerick Combat Gym nurtures 29 Irish champions, two European champions, two five-nations champions and two world champions – but the club struggles year on year to secure Regeneration funding.
This summer, the club brought home a huge haul of medals from the WOMAA kickboxing world championships.
The club has been in existence for around five years, but is now looking for a permanent home. The top-class athletes currently rely on Roxboro’s community hall to train for just two hours a week.
“When I started, I was struck by the amount of talent that was in the area,” said the club’s Grand Master, Tony O’Donnell.
“After being rejected the first time for Regeneration funding, I went back and made sure that everything was in order with the application.
“We would ring up to see if we are able to get anything and they would say no or hang up… Parents started getting so frustrated that they started to ring up as well, and I was told to tell the parents to stop ringing,” said Tony.
“There are clubs and projects out there getting money that are having little success in comparison with this club. The success has been phenomenal. We have 45 kids and young adults from the local area, 29 Irish champions in the club, two European champions, two five-nations champions and two world champions in the club.
“No other club in the country is having success like that, and we are up against people who are training maybe two, three times a week, after school and maybe even before school. We have a total of two hours a week in a community hall.”
Mr O’Donnell is grateful for the use of the community hall, but it is unsuitable for the needs of the growing club, and is a temporary measure.
The club has also taken on several young people who had been engaging with the probation services after coming before the courts. One of them is now an Irish champion and is studying at UL.
Another has entered an apprenticeship through kickboxing.
“I thought Regeneration was supposed to be regenerating these areas. These kids from the local area need to be supported, not kicked while they’re down.
“Some of these kids are going through life thinking there’s nothing out there for them, but through the kickboxing and the success, they’re realising if they try in life there’s something for them. To not support them is so wrong,” said Tony.
“This kind of thing just reinforces that idea some of them might have that they’re not good enough, if they’re not supported in this and if it’s not seen as important. They are good enough.”
The club is looking for its own space, somewhere between 11,000 and 15,000 sq ft, with toilets.
“We will pay our own way” said the club master - “we just need our own space.”
“I have every confidence that the club would be able to grow and grow and do more good in the community if we could accommodate all of the people who want to come and train,” he added.