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Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Frank a knockout as Unsung Hero

Frank Gervin from Coalisland is the Northern Ireland regional winner of the 2008 BBC Sports Unsung Hero.

Frank Gervin
Frank Gervin is the 2008 BBC NI S|port Unsung hero award winner

Frank Gervin from Coalisland is the Northern Ireland regional winner of the 2008 BBC Sports Unsung Hero.

Frank is famous in east Tyrone for standing in the way of a bulldozer to prevent his beloved Clonoe boxing gym from being knocked down in 2005.

"I got a call very early in the morning that the club was going to be knocked down, so I had to do it," said Frank.

"It was an awful thing to see young lads going up past the club crying. It was their club."

Frank had founded the Clonoe Boxing Gym in 1972 so when its future was threatened in September three years ago, Frank was not for moving.

Tiernan Bayne was only 10 years old at the time but he was inspired by Frank's courage.

"Only for Frank the club wouldn't be here," said Tiernan. "They tried to knock the club down but they couldn't knock Frank down."

Now in its sixth year, the BBC Sports Unsung Hero Award recognises and rewards outstanding contributions by everyday people who give up their time and energy to encourage and enable others to participate in sport.

One boy came for two or three days to stay with us and has been here for 11 years!

Frank Gervin

Frank will represent NI alongside 14 other regional finalists from England, Scotland and Wales at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2008 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool on Sunday, December 14, when the overall UK winner will be announced.

After Frank's heroics that September, the local community sparked into life with the club going from strength to strength, with growing numbers lending their support.

"We have 60 lads at the minute and a fantastic committee," said Frank. "We've kept going, though, there's not a day that goes by when you don't think about what happened. It's taken its toll, mentally and physically."

Back in the Seventies, 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.

BBC's Jerome Quinn and Frank Gervin
BBC's Jerome Quinn presents Frank Gervin with his Unsung Hero trophy

"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," said Paddy.

In more recent times, Frank organised Amir Khan to visit the club. He's always had a way to the big names, from having lunch with Muhammad Ali in the early 1970s to former World champion Barry McGuigan.

Frank's first fight was back in 1954 against Martin Taylor, brother of snooker legend Dennis. Ever since, boxing has been in his blood.

He's also a renowned international coach, having led Northern Ireland's boxers to the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Despite travelling the world, Frank is devoted to home life where he and his wife Susan have eight girls, two boys and 16 grandchildren.

Remarkably, it does not end there as Frank and his wife have fostered an astonishing 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 put a bit back into the society we live in. People think about nothing but money and how they can get it, but that's a bit selfish to me.

"All you need is happiness, a bed and a roof over your head," said Frank.

Frank has been an inspiration to so many people in his community

Shane Glynn

The BBC Sports Unsung Hero Award is supported by Robinsons who are offering winners a 2,500 bursary to help them with their work in sport.

"Frank has been an inspiration to so many people in his community and is a worthy winner of the BBC Sports Unsung Hero title in Northern Ireland," said Shane Glynn, Executive Producer of BBC NI Sport.

"As in previous years, it has been difficult to pick one winner from those who were nominated - there are so many people here who make such a valuable contribution to their sport and to their area.

"Thanks to everyone again who entered. Frank has given a lot to the Clonoe Club over the years and is a great inspiration to so many people.

"We wish him all the best at the overall awards in Liverpool in December."

see also
Red letter day for Michael
22 Nov 07 |  Sports Personality
Four nominated for Unsung Hero
20 Nov 07 |  Sports Personality
Bursaries for Unsung Heroes
16 Sep 08 |  Sports Personality
Who will win Sports Personality?
26 Aug 08 |  Sports Personality
Liverpool gets Sports Personality
22 Feb 08 |  Sports Personality
Unsung sporting heroes
09 Dec 07 |  Sports Personality

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