Fifteen students in NUI Galway will step into the ring with fifteen students from GMIT for a long-anticipated charity boxing showdown tonight in the Radisson Blu at 8pm.
As the big night drew closer last week, SIN went along to a training session to meet those taking part.
For the majority of the students in both colleges, it is their first time taking part in any form of martial arts. Sporting backgrounds range from rugby, to GAA, to no sporting history at all.
Stephen Molloy, secretary and coach at the Oughterard boxing club, is the man who has taken it upon himself to coach the students, and he has nothing but praise for them.
“Training has been absolutely fantastic,” he said.
“This is a group of students who have never boxed before. We started training six weeks ago. We usually take about ten weeks of training to get them ready for fight night, but this group have come together so quickly, it’s unbelievable. Their attitude is fantastic.”
Students won’t find out who they are competing against until the final training session. Stephen and his assistant coach, Jack Crane, have done provisional lists already, but they could change.
“There’s not much differences between four and six boxers in the same weight category, so that could change overnight,” he explained.
When questioned about which college will win more fights on the night, he chose to remain neutral.
“It’s 50/50, it really is. There are students at the present time from both colleges that are not as good as their opponent, but I know in the next two weeks before fight night they will be up there with them,” he said.
“The matches I foresee to be 50/50, and it’s that close. Whoever wants it most of the pairings will win the fight. They will be so closely matched. It will be very hard to call which college will win more fights.”
Boxer Denis Mortell is a first year BA student from NUI Galway. He told SIN training has him ready to take on any GMIT opponent he meets, although he admitted training has gotten tougher as the weeks go by.
“It’s going really well, we’re training twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It started off easy enough, it has gotten really hard,” he explained.
“They’re pushing fitness on us, pushing technique, everything really. I can feel in all adding up now. I’ve played rugby down in Munster for quite a while. I played senior cup schools, but I’ve been playing rugby since I was about seven years old. This is my first step into martial arts in general, I never did anything when I was younger,” he said.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m enjoying it.”
And it’s not just the boys’ names on the ticket, with plenty of potential Katie Taylors putting themselves through their paces before the November bout.
Girls from both colleges are training for the big night, and are taking no prisoners when they come up against the lads.
Third Year Commerce student Mairéad Eviston and Third Year Biomedical student Lauren Kennedy are two of the girls taking part in the charity fight, both girls swapping football boots for boxing gloves.
“It’s not as easy going as we would have thought, but that’s a good thing”, said Lauren.
While she admitted training in Oughterard was a bit of a trek, she said “it’s worth it to actually be in the ring”.
Mairéad agreed with her, remarking coach Stephen was setting the bar high for them at training; “Stephen is putting us through our paces anyway. It’s his club so we head out there. It has a very good setup.”
Fourth Year Quantity Surveying student in GMIT Robert Comer told SIN the girls were more than up for the challenge.
“The girls were throwing more punches than the lads, probably getting me with more shots and exposing my weaknesses a bit more,” he admitted.
Robert had no experience in any sort of fighting sport previous to six weeks ago. The GMIT student said that when he has told people that he’s taking part, they’ve been surprised and told him “your footwork is terrible, what are you doing?”
During a water break, Third Year Medicine student Seán O’Dea joked that because he is from Limerick, he already has a fighting spirit and is not phased at all by the physicality of the training.
According to Third Year Corporate Law student Fiachra Mac Suibhne, “it takes a bit of humility to walk in thinking you’re the big man and take a few hits. The ego takes a fair bit of a step down, which is a good thing.”
All the fighters admitted training was no easy task with Stephen. First year student Shane O’Connell says that “he fairly puts us through our paces. The cardio aspects to the training are extremely hard. You do a warm-up, you get into the pads, work the bags. You’d be dripping sweat by the end of it. It’s tough but it’s really good. You feel good afterwards.”
Third Agricultural Business student in GMIT Maeve Keane said that the effort was “definitely worth it”.
“Everybody puts their all into it. I think it’s going to be a really good night,” she said.
The fight night will take place tonight 22 November at 8pm in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Galway. Tickets are €15 for students and €25 for non-students and are available at the NUI Galway Students’ Union Office. All proceeds will go towards AMACH!, Domestic Violence Response, Galway Hospice, Hand in Hand, Milford Care Centre and Special Olympics Ireland.
By Connell McHugh