THE EARLY mornings now drive Leah Gallen, but at one time it was the prospect of later nights that lured her through the ropes.
She reckons she was nine – no more, but possibly less – when boxing first appealed.
“It’s a funny story how I started boxing,” Gallen – who faces Shelby Myers in tonight’s Irish U18 69kgs final – says.
As she leans over a bench in the Raphoe ABC gym, surrounded by a treasure trove of boxing memorabilia, Gallen appears likely to veer off on the story, but then she tells it anyway.
“Mammy used to make me go to bed at around eight o’clock…”
The intrepid young Leah soon hatched a plan.
“I saw something one day where there was boxing training on until nine. I was like: ‘Here’s my chance to stay up a bit later’. That got me into boxing first. I was only about nine at the time and it got me an extra hour and a bit to stay up.
And so it was, a career began.
“I fell in love with boxing when I started.”
Gallen won the first of her five Irish titles with Finn Valley ABC and has since added another four, plus two European bronze medals, at Raphoe ABC.
Crumlin puncher Myers is in view for tonight’s welterweight final.
“This will be my toughest,” Gallen says.
“I’m against a very good opponent. Winning this one would mean everything. There are European and World championships to come after this for winners. The opportunities that could open up by winning are massive.
“I haven’t boxed her before but I was at the Europeans with her two years ago. I know it’ll be a tough one.”
Gallen didn’t take a festive break. Instead, she was in the gym almost daily. Her club-mate and friend Cody Lafferty is also in action tonight, while Letterkenny ABC’s Paddy McShane also goes through the ropes.
St Columba’s College student Gallen was hard at work, with coaches Gary McCullagh and Gerard Keaveney, while Donegal pro Jason Quigley trained alongside them.
“Jason is a great inspiration,” Gallen says.
“Of course, there is Katie Taylor too, but Jason is my inspiration. I was in training with Jason over Christmas. Just watching him, the way he moves and the way he does things, just wee small things in training, that’s unbelievable to have.”
Gallen gets up there mornings a week to work with personal trainer Shaun McGlynn and is at Raphoe ABC three nights each week. Weekends, too, have been for honing the skills.
She says: “Everyone thinks winning is easy, but they don’t realise the work and the effort or the sacrifices.”
Gallen went up to welterweight in 2019 and has found the transition seamless: “The strength and conditioning work has brought my power and speed on so much.
“My shots come off stronger and you think about the morning getting up early and it it’s worth it. You see those wee things and it definitely is.”
Gallen won European bronze in 2018 and 2019 at junior and youth levels. After a win over Dominika Gulli in the semi-final, Gallen ought to be confident of retaining her Irish U18 crown.
“I still don’t have the confidence that I should,” she says.
“I do want to stay confident for these Championships. I’m not at the confidence level I could be, but I struggle with it anyway. I’ll try and keep my head up.
“I wasn’t happy in the semi-final. I never come out happy, though. I kept going and got the win at the end, so that’s all that was important.”
In early December, Gallen closed a busy year with an impressive win over Olivia Craig from Ballykelly ABC.
She says: “That was a great fight to get. It was my last fight of the season and I noticed my speed and power coming up. It was class to get a win to finish off the season with a bang.”
Just how she intends to begin the next one.Tags: