A deserved award for no-dozer FrankSeconds Out
By Andy Watters & Thomas Hawkins
coach Frank Gervin is a hugely popular figure in Ulster and
Irish boxing. The genial Tyrone man has been at the helm of
the Clonoe club in Coalisland through good times and bad for
around four decades.
The bad times include standing in the way of a bulldozer to prevent his beloved boxing gym from being knocked down.
Gervin founded the Clonoe club in 1972 and when its future was threatened in September 2005, Frank refused to move out of the way of the demolition gang.
He eventually won that battle and, although keeping the Clonoe ABC going has been a constant struggle, Gervin (right) has never flinched in his dedication.
And now that unstinting commitment to amateur boxing has been recognised with Gervin being named as the winner of the BBC Sports Unsung Hero for 2008 in Northern Ireland.
“When I got the phone call saying that I had won the award, I thought it was a wind-up,’’ said Gervin.
“There’s a boy or two down this direction who would play practical jokes on people and I thought for sure that’s what it was.
“One butcher boy has been itching to get me back for a joke I played on him a few years back and he swore then he would get me back if it took 10 years to do it.
“My first thought was this was his payback time but then it finally sank in that this was genuine and I was delighted to receive the award on behalf of all who have helped keep the Clonoe club afloat down the years.’’
Like most amateur boxing clubs, funding is in short supply and just keeping the doors open can be a constant battle.
But back in 2005, Gervin and his committee found their Clonoe gym facing closure and demolition with plans to develop the area. Drastic times required drastic measures and Gervin didn’t flinch from the task.
“I knew I had to face down the bulldozer,” recalls Frank. “I got a call at 6.30 in the morning that the club was going to be knocked down, so I had to do it.
“It was an awful thing to see young lads going up past the club crying. It was their club.”
Gervin’s resistance helped ensure the future of the gym, and has sparked an upsurge in numbers and wider community support.
Back in the 70s, the first batch of boxers to come through the club included local hero Tommy Corr, who fought at the Los Angeles Olympics. In those days, it was more than a boxing club.
Paddy Campbell joined the club in 1975 and remembers the bad times: “Frank kept lads off the streets when the Troubles were bad, he saved lives really. He kept the community together, there’d be no club but for him.”
Gervin is also a renowned Ulster and Irish international coach but despite his busy boxing schedule, he is devoted to home life where he and his wife Susan have eight girls, two boys and 16 grandchildren.
And it doesn’t end there. Mr and Mrs Gervin have fostered more than 100 children over three decades.
“We started in 1981 and we’ve had children coming and going here ever since,” said Frank.
“One boy came for two or three days and is here now 11 years.
“I feel that we should all put a bit back into the society we live in.”
Gervin will represent Northern Ireland alongside 14 other finalists at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2008 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool this Sunday, December 14, where the overall winner will be announced.