Few clubs have such a rich history within Irish boxing as Immaculata and they could not have chosen a better man to lead them forward than former British featherweight champion Martin Lindsay.
Legendary coach Nugget Nugent continues to be a driving force at the Mac but Lindsay and fellow former Ulster and Irish champion Frankie Slane have been carrying out the main coaching duties and last weekend enjoyed watching their lads land six national titles in the Boy 1 and Boy 2 Championships in Dublin.
After a glittering amateur career, Lindsay turned professional and quite frankly — given his natural ability — could easily have gone on to win a world title if he had chosen a different pathway.
Nevertheless, the Belfast man won the British featherweight belt with a stunning stoppage of Paul Appleby amid a raucous atmosphere in the Ulster Hall and was ranked in the world’s top 10. When past his best, he still went the distance with former world champions Lee Selby and Josh Warrington.
Now he is employed by the Belfast Metropolitan College as one of their boxing academy coaches and in the evenings he is dedicated to nurturing the new generation of Mac boxers.
Last weekend, Jude Reilly (29kg), Lee Largey Snodden (33kg), Kai Dynes (44.5kg), Fra Regan (46kg) and Carly Voyle (31kg) landed Boy/Girl 1 titles and TJ McFarlane (29kg) won a Boy 2 title. For Lindsay, the future looks very bright for a club that means so much to him.
“It was great for everyone at the club to see the recent success. We had nine Antrim champions, then eight Ulster champions and six Irish champions. At one point the guys were on such a run of success all they were talking about was not wanting to be the first boxer to lose. I couldn’t believe it! It was great to see that confidence rising,” said Lindsay, who turns 40 next year.
“I know how big a responsibility it is to be the coach at the club because of the success we’ve had over the years and I know how much the club means to those in the area as well. It’s been a huge part of my life since I was eight years of age without a break. I know what Nugget and the other coaches did for me and it feels like a natural progression that it’s my turn to give something back.
“Nugget is still a big part of the club but with the ongoing pandemic he’s naturally concerned about coming down to the club. But I’m on the phone with him every day talking about the club.
“I don’t look upon myself as the main man, I always say that we’re a team — we have a great committee and it’s great to have Frankie coaching with me because he was someone that I always looked up to. In fact, the first pair of boots I had were his old ones.
“I feel that as a club we’re building new foundations and this group we have now who are mainly around 11, 12 and 13 years of age have a big future. We also had three champions at the Ulster Elites — Nicole Meli, Caitlin Fryers and Nugget’s granddaughter Erin Nugent.”
Money is always scarce for amateur boxing clubs and the pandemic has hit them all hard in regard to finance and the numbers entering gyms, but Lindsay insists that the Mac are in a very strong position going into 2022.
“I really think the club is flying now. It always helps when you get a few winners and there is a buzz about the club. We’ve also made good contacts with other sports coaches — a lot of our guys play football and Gaelic so we’ve adjusted our training times to help them do both. The parents play a big part and I can see how much it means to them what the club is doing for the kids,” added Lindsay.
“A few businesses in the area gave us some sponsorship and that allowed us to make the trip to Dublin a special one. The Mac has always been more than just a boxing club, it’s a big part of the local community and it’s down to me and the rest of the team to keep it that way.”