By Michael O’Neill
One of Ireland’s leading coaches and former Team Ireland Managers is well known Portlaoise coach Pat Ryan. Pat of course has been well known in Irish boxing circles for many a long day and is club coach at the County Laois club to numerous top male and female boxers including Gold medallist from Baku , Michael O’Reilly.
Pat Ryan has taken a leaf out of Barack Obama’s “Hope and Change” election campaign and is running a “It’s Time For Change” campaign for the office of President of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
Ryan, of the Portlaoise BC, former IABA President Dominic O’Rourke and Mayo’s Joe Hennigan are running for the post after current President Tommy Murphy confirmed that he will be stepping down from the position this year. The new President of Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport is expected to be confirmed at the National Convention in Ennis in early October.
Certainly this writer believes that the time has come for a change at the ‘top table’ and not only at Presidential level. Good to see that the IABA has also recently appointed a new Operations Manager, Cork’s Caradh O’Donovan . We need to remember that the ‘times they are a changin’ and though boxing remains one of the country’s most successful sports and is likely to so do, we do need many more younger administrators in all positions of power down at the National Stadium for now and soon as part of the Boxing Ireland organisation at the National Sports Campus.
We have some top coaches both at club and HPU level but much more remains to be done if Ireland is to hold its place as a European and World boxing powerhouse nation. That certainly also applies to the women’s sport which is in desperate need of new ‘young’ blood at all levels and where more funding is urgently required. Equally the women’s squad needs to have much closer links to the H.P.U and all teams should come under the overall control of that ‘Grand Master’ Billy Walsh.
So what can Pat Ryan ‘bring to the table’?
Ryan, who has been involved in boxing for over five decades and has served with the IABA for over ten years, outlined his objectives.
He explains : “I have been a member of the Portlaoise Boxing Club since 1964 and have held various roles from Secretary, Treasurer and President. Heading up an excellent coaching team for the Portlaoise Boxing Club for over thirty five years our boxers have assisted the Club in winning three “Best Club Awards” in Leinster and a “Best Club Award” at National level. The clubs boxers have won over one hundred and four national titles with many of them distinguishing themselves at National and International competition.
“The recent successes of our boxers, Michael O’Reilly winning the Olympic Games Gold medal in Baku, Azerbaijan. His brother Jimmy won a silver medal at the senior European Cadet Championships in the Ukraine. Michael Nevin (Jnr) won his second European Gold medal in Anapa, Russia for the second time in two years. Michael out-pointed his Russian opponents on both occasions. Also, the success of purchasing a 4000sq ft. facility and designing it to a specification for a “Centre of Excellence – Boxing Academy” is huge and a milestone in the history of the Portlaoise boxing club Est. 1930.
“I have served as a member of the Boxing Council of the I.A.B.A for over ten years. As a National Tutor I was entrusted as part of a group to design our Level 1 Coaching Course and most recently I have been a key member of a group of Tutors in developing and delivering the new Level 2 Coaching Course. Since 1987 I have been coaching at national level with numerous coaches from all over Ireland, working in harmony preparing teams for International duty i.e. Gaelic Youths, Daily Star, European & World championships and Olympic qualifiers. I was a member of the High Performance coaching team for thirteen years.
“I was a member of the National Coaching Committee prior to the foundation of the High Performance Unit and was assistant coach to Pete Taylor for almost six years, travelling extensively with Pete and Katie on a journey, prior to Katie winning Olympic gold.
“I served as a member of the Leinster Provincial Council and was a member of the Leinster coaching commission from 1989. In administration I was President of the Laois/Kilkenny/Carlow county board for five years.
“Having been approached by many people from the six units to run for the position of President and having given this important role much thought and consideration, I have decided to run as a candidate.
“With over fifty years’ experience in boxing, I believe I am the person to move the organisation onto the next stage of its development and with your support this can be achieved. I would consider the President’s position as an honour and a major opportunity to address the obvious weaknesses in the current administration and practices of the Association.
So if elected what would be Pat’s main objectives ? On that topic he went on:
Leadership: Many of the current difficulties in our Association have arisen from the lack of transparency, poor governance, inadequate leadership and an inability to share and communicate a strategy for development that everyone in boxing can participate in. This situation is unacceptable for a national governing body and is something I feel very strongly about rectifying.
Opportunities and encouragement: This must be provided for new young blood, including former boxers, to re–invigorate our boxing organisation. We badly need to increase the participation of young vibrant people with an interest or expertise in the areas of IT, administration, judging and refereeing etc. This untapped resource within our sport is an area that I will promote and encourage under my stewardship.
Lines of Communication: Members need to be appreciated and respected, and feel they are part of an open and transparent organisation. Minutes of meetings of the Boxing Council should be communicated to all major units on the Internet for all members to read. Also we need to establish a separate and exclusive e-mail address for members who can submit proposals, suggestions and ideas etc. to the Boxing Council. A designated staff member will be appointed to over-see this account. The Council, for its part, can keep in touch with the membership by issuing relevant questionnaires, and information, through this same channel.
Team Manager Training Programme: This will see the introduction of a specific programme to equip our Team Managers with the skills to confidently travel with teams abroad; to deal with managerial issues that inevitably arise at National and International competitions providing leadership and support to our boxers, coaches, referees and judges.
Decentralise: There is an urgent need to help reduce pressure on clubs’ financial expenditure by establishing a system of Provincial Elite coaching workshops, re-establishment of I.A.B.A coaching courses delivered locally, alongside referee and judging seminars/ workshops. This can be achieved with the assistance of our national and International qualified officials.
Extra funding sources for Clubs: By developing special training modules for Club coaches to raise their level of skills enabling them to deliver various types of community based workshops i.e. Boxercise, Strength/Conditioning, Aerobics, Nutrition and Weight reduction classes etc. This will provide much needed additional financial resources to our clubs locally.
Access to Elite Coaching Programmes: Clubs will have greater access to Staff and modern coaching methods by a system of liaising with the exceptionally successful High Performance Unit. This will further improve the successes of our boxers at national and International level, and assist the fundamental work of our club coaches, who discover, develop and nurture our talent at club level, across the 32 Counties.
Active Co-operation: As President I will personally work with the elected officers of Clubs, County Boards and Provincial Councils to develop a co-operative and positive relationship between all our branches, with a focus on each club’s individual needs.
IABA Committees: Sub-committees established by the Boxing Council will have specific terms of reference, and be required to submit regular progress reports to the Council. These reports will be included in the Minutes of the Council’s meetings. In addition, the Council will discuss the establishing of an Independent Advisory Committee to provide oversight and guidance to Council members, especially in the areas of policy development, good governance, transparency and best practice.
Accountability: There needs to be greater accountability regarding the spending of I.A.B.A. funds especially in these times of austerity. Poor leadership and decision making has resulted in several unnecessary court appearances incurring substantial legal costs on the I.A.B.A. and its members over recent years. This was money that could have been channelled directly into coaching and competition for our young boxers, male and female.
Finally, I am at all times available to meet and discuss these plans, and the future development of my policies with Co. Boards and Provincial Councils throughout the organisation “.
So there you have it, Pat Ryan’s plans for the re-organisation indeed the future of Irish boxing IF he is elected at the IABA Conference.
He has certainly provided sterling service for Club and country over recent years and if elected this writer has no doubt but that Ireland would have a President that is equal to if not better than counterparts in many of the powerhouse countries. Many of these have done virtually nothing to improve women’s boxing in their native lands and clearly in Ireland despite the great success of Katie Taylor at Olympic, World and European level there is an urgent need for better funding if those that follow her are to achieve even a quarter of what she has done.