Commonwealth Games: Donnelly hoping his Indian summer will pay dividends
Steven Donnelly won't just be fighting for a medal at the Commonwealth Games next month but the money that will follow on the back of success in Delhi.
Donnelly, who is not funded by Sport NI, has been rocked by the government's decision to withdraw his unemployment benefit because he is training in Dublin at the IABA's High Performance Unit with the rest of Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games squad.
“I was to go for a meeting with a company and I didn't turn up because I was training in Dublin and when they heard that, they said that because I wasn't in the UK they would have to stop my benefit,” said light-welterweight Donnelly, who boxes out of the All Saints club in Ballymena.
“Of course it's a blow for me but I just have to focus on my boxing and the training that I'm doing down in Dublin which is going really well.
“Hopefully, when I come back I can sign on again.
“Going to the Commonwealth Games is why I started boxing and I know that I can go and get a medal. And if I win a medal then I know I'll get funding from the Irish Sports Council and also Sport NI.
“It's tough not having a job but there is so little out there. I was working as an electrician on the Victoria Square project but that work ended about 18 months ago and there doesn't seem to be any work about at the moment.”
Out of the nine boxers going to Delhi, it us understood that Donnelly and Michael Conlan — gold medallists at the Arafura Games in Australia — are the only two not receiving funding from Sport NI and there seems to be some confusion as to why that is the case.
All Saints coach and 1978 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Gerry Hamill is fuming that Donnelly has not received any financial help with his preparation and is laying the blame at the door of the Ulster Council.
“It's a disgrace that someone with the talent of Steven is not getting any funding. He’s one of the top four boxers on the team. We have been told that forms were to be signed but we never received any form to sign and why could this not have been sorted out long ago when it was clear that Steven would be going to the Commonwealth Games as a genuine medal prospect?” said Hamill.
President Paul McMahon is adamant that the Ulster Council have done all they can to make sure every boxer is funded.
“We have made numerous representations to Sport NI on behalf of the two boxers but they will not be getting funding because they didn't meet the deadline. Myself and Sadie Duffy photocopied and sent out 37 forms to boxers and their clubs last October. The forms had to be back by October 23 last year and those who met the criteria were given it,” said McMahon.
“Under the last executive there were only four boxers funded to the tune of £12,000 and now under the new administration we have 11 boxers funded with a total of £67,000.
“I would also point out that Sport NI have made a substantial contribution to the funding of the training in Dublin but that will be less than half of the cost of training so the Ulster Council will make up the rest of the funding for the training at the High Performance Unit. You can imagine that training for four to five days a week in Dublin is very costly but we want to give the boys the best possible preparation for Delhi.”
Meanwhile, Donnelly has been enjoying the training in Dublin and believes he will be in the best shape of his life for Delhi.
“Sparring with the likes of Roy Sheehan and Willie McLaughlin at the High Performance Unit has been great, they're two top boxers so I'm feeling in great shape,” added Donnelly.