The boxing club where Kellie Harrington began her career has been "inundated" with calls from parents hoping to sign their kids up to join since she claimed her Olympic gold medal.
However, the Corinthians Boxing Club, based on Buckingham Street in Dublin 1, says it “doesn’t have the facilities to cope” with a big increase in members due to a shortage of funds.
The club, close to Harrington’s home on Portland Row, has only the one toilet, which caters for boys, and the showers are leaking and leaving water stains on the walls after more than two decades of constant use.
Paddy Corcoran, who has coached children at the club since it opened 21 years ago, says it is "desperate for a bit of funding for basic facilities" so it does not have to turn any would-be fighters away.
He said the amount the club needs for health and safety upgrades “isn’t the kind of money some other clubs are getting” but is a sum that is “hard to come by”.
“The council did give us a few grants here and there. We got two grand for the lights a while back. We just need decent facilities for the girls in here and we’d be flying. But it’s out of our range,” he says.
Some of the subscriptions for the club cost as little as €2 per day, and while some parents offer donations, “you couldn’t take money off people in the area who are struggling. And it wouldn’t be enough.”
Corcoran says: “This place isn’t just a boxing club. We have one brother and sister who come down here just for a wash because their mother and father are heroin addicts. For others, it’s community and family.”
He recalls Harrington’s arrival at the club about 16 years ago as something that “came as a shock” to the coaches, who had only coached boys up until then.
“We didn’t know what to do. We thought ‘where do we even let her change?’ But she said she didn’t care. She wouldn’t stop – she said she’d come in ready and go home for her showers after.
You don't need bags of talent – it's hard work and dedication. We've several kids in here that could go all the way
“That’s what she did for a while, until we got a small room partitioned off for her. It’s the same shower room we have 16 years later.”
Seeing Harrington win gold on Sunday was “absolutely brilliant” and made Corcoran wonder: “If she wasn’t so determined, she’d have walked away. If she said ‘I’m not going into those toilets’ – there you go, that’s an Olympic gold medal gone!”
Since her win against Beatriz Ferreira, Corcoran says "the fellas' phones have been ringing off the hook". The coaches hope that Harrington's gold medal will bring more funding in the direction of the club.
“I don’t want to refuse anyone, but what else can you do?” he says.
‘A real buzz’
Steven Molloy, who has coached at the club for five years and has two children in its ranks, says seeing Harrington's success has given the kids "a real buzz". His son Bobby (9) says he hopes to emulate her one day.
Currently, the club has 45 young people signed up. It could have the capacity to train up to 60, if it was able to renovate a downstairs area.
“You don’t need bags of talent – it’s hard work and dedication. We’ve several kids in here that could go all the way. We don’t need bundles of money, just the basics so we can produce more champions,” Molloy says.