It’s a bleak Wednesday evening, the sort of night tailor made for being slumped in front of the television with the feet up, complete with a mug of tea and a few Digestives.
Well, for the next four weeks, biscuits will be no-go for this column as I prepare for my first ever boxing bout, under the guidance of Neil Gough, the greatest pugilist Waterford has ever produced.
Me? A boxer? The reaction I received to this latest endeavour from my brothers was telling, although not entirely surprising.
“What?” said one. “Are you sure about that?” Indeed the collective look from my trio of bros was one of all-round bemusement. Dermot? The soft one? Boxing? Seriously?
Given that the last person I laid a serious smack on was my kid brother the guts of two decades ago – that’s what brothers do from time to time – fighting is not something that comes naturally to me.
And given that I possess the co-ordination of a earth-bound pigeon full of pellets, my boxing prowess – or lack thereof – is likely to keep Neil busy at Saint Paul’s Boxing Club for the next month.
As for the reason I’m sticking in a mouthguard and bandaging up my hands in the Tower Hotel on December 16th?
Well, like those (unlike me!) who rank as true Waterford luminaries before me, including ex-Deise hurler Ken McGrath, I’m taking part in the boxing fundraiser being held as part of the WLRfm Lions Club Christmas Appeal.
And as part of my preparation, there were a few boxes that needed ticking, the first of which involved undergoing a medical at the Rowe Creavin Practice on Slievekeale Road, incidentally the workplace of my bout opponent, Cormac Johnston.
Following an eye and ear examination, as well as a blood pressure test, I then provided a urine sample (thankfully I’d drunk three pints of water earlier that day so there was no delay in my, erm, performing!), I then met with a GP.
And, in keeping with the regulations as laid down by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association prior to anyone entering a ring on this island, I had my testicles checked for any possible lumps.
I must confess, somewhat shamefully, despite my being 34 and halfway to 35, I’d never before checked my bits and pieces in such a manner. But from now on, I shall do so once a month while in the shower, “while everything is dangling” to quote my grinning GP!
So having emerged from my medical with a thankfully clean bill of health, I strolled back to 37, The Quay and got some protein into the system before heading for St Paul’s and my first sessions with Neil.
Entering the gym and feeling, only naturally, that I’d entered a domain I’d no real business being in whatsoever, Neil had me at ease within seconds, as did the clubmen being put through their paces at the time.
As someone who was allowed up past his bedtime (a week shy of turning six) to see Barry McGuigan claim the World Featherweight title, and welling up when Michael Carruth won Olympic gold seven years later, I’ve always had an interest in the sport.
Ireland’s great amateur tradition has been suitably demonstrated in recent years by the successes of Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes and Kenneth Egan to name but three, while Andy Lee and Matthew Macklin remain big names on the professional scene.
It’s literally a sport which on a per head basis, we truly punch above our weight.
Watching Neil barely lifting his feet off the ground while skipping, while also observing the agility of the young boxers he was training on Wednesday last, gave me a fresh insight into the sport: I’d never been inside the doors of a gym before, I must confess.
Cormac and I thankfully both weigh 95kgs, so at least that’s one statistic in which we both measure up. But he’s taller than me, which means he’s got a slightly longer reach, so he’ll be marginally tougher to hit than I ought to be.
We both know that the bout, which will consist of three rounds of 90 seconds, is primarily something to be enjoyed, but I suspect if either of us gets an opportunity to land a hit, we’ll take it.
That we couldn’t be in better hands goes without saying. Neil’s got a fantastic way of dealing with boxer and non-boxer alike, and if was in any way frustrated by my cumbersome footwork, he certainly didn’t show it!
There’s not a lot he can do with me in the space of a month, but I can help myself in due course by working on my jab, doing plenty of short, sharp sprints and learning to rotate my shoulders and hips.
The following day in work, when asked about how I’d fared with Neil, I sprang out of my seat, got up on my toes, ‘showed off’ my defence and threw some shadow punches. And I didn’t feel like a complete wally while doing so!
December 16th in the Tower might be the only time I ever don the gloves in public, so I intend to make the most of it. An interesting month lies ahead, in and out of the ring!