Ulster high performance stars make the most of Russia trip

Some of the Ulster high performance team and their Russian counterparts during the training camp in Rostov last week
Neil Loughran

TWO more teams from the Ulster high performance unit are to gain valuable international experience in the coming weeks, following on from the huge success of last month’s trip to Russia.

On Friday, coaches Peter Brady and Damian Walsh will travel with a 12-strong team to the Scottish high performance unit in Glasgow, where they will train alongside the best Scotland has to offer until next Wednesday.

Included on the Ulster team are reigning Irish light-fly champion Stephen McKenna (Old School), TJ Waite (Ormeau Road), Eamonn McNally (St Michael’s), two-time Irish bantamweight king Kurt Walker (Canal), Braid’s Anthony O’Rawe, Holy Trinity pair Bernaldo Marime and Caoimhin Hynds, Conor Doherty (Emerald) and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Sean McGlinchey. Three female boxers make up the team - Holy Trinity’s Carly McNaul and the Commonwealth medal-winning pair of Michaela Walsh and Alanna Audley Murphy.

Next Tuesday, meanwhile, a youth and junior team from the Ulster high performance unit will compete at the Black Forest Cup in Stuttgart, Germany. It has been a busy time for the Ulster boxers, many of whom travelled to Rostov in Russia for an 11-day training camp last month and which has been hailed by Brady as “invaluable experience”.

“We had Stephen McKenna, Kurt Walker, Tiernan Bradley, Fearghus Quinn, JP Delaney, Steven Ward and Damien Sullivan all out with us,” said the Holy Trinity coach.

“Some of the younger ones there are ones you’d be looking at for future Olympics after this one. We were training twice a day and the Russians looked after us very well. We picked up a lot from them in terms of training methods, things we don’t do here that we’ll be able to use at the club and the high performance unit.

“It’s not just the boys who were learning - it was the coaches as well. From a personal point of view, it was a great experience, working with the boxers, doing their corners. It was an invaluable experience.”

While they were in Rostov, the Ulster team had three test matches against the Russian team and, according to Brady, handled themselves extremely well: “The test matches were really competitive,” he added.

“Most of our boys would’ve come out on top or been on a level par with them. They couldn’t get over the level our boxers were at - it was really good. The Ulster high performance unit as a whole is going really well at the minute. Even for the young lads who are coming there on a Saturday morning, to have the opportunity to train alongside the likes of Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, it’s brilliant for them just to see what they do and how they do it.”


EXPERIENCED coach Mickey O’Neill believes the up-and-coming Two Castles club has a real gem on its hands after 14-year-old Jude Gallagher lifted his fourth Irish title.

The talented teenager recently won the national Boy 4 title at 39kg and has been training at the Ulster high performance unit on Saturday mornings. Gallagher was just nine-years-old when he first walked into O’Neill’s former club, Bishop Kelly in Eskra, and followed his coach to Newtownstewart when Two Castles opened its doors in the old town hall four years ago.

And O’Neill, who has been involved in boxing for over 30 years and has trained multiple senior stars, believes Gallagher is something special: “He’s a natural talent,” said O’Neill.

“Since he won his first title at the nine-county championships, all the Belfast coaches even were saying ‘that boy will definitely be Irish champion’. You’d have known he was going to be something special and he is something special. All the kids look up to him - he’s got everything. I’ve trained several senior champions and I’d have to say Jude just seems to have that wee bit extra.”

Gallagher’s success has given the club a huge boost, though he is not alone in bringing silverware back to the county Tyrone village. Tiarnan Mayse also won an Irish title last month and was one of five male boxers to win Ulster titles last month.

In Buncrana last Sunday, meanwhile, Louise McSorley, Grainne Gallagher and Alannah Mayse also won provincial titles. As a result of their progress between the ropes, Two Castles has been nominated for a Derry City and Strabane Council sports award in the Club of the Year category.

They will find out on Thursday night whether they have been successful.



OLYMPIANS Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan will be in action as Ireland take on Kazakhstan in a test match at the National Stadium on Wednesday (7.30pm start).

Kazakhstan and India arrived in Ireland last week for a training camp alongside the home nation at the Irish Institute of Sport in Abbotstown, with Great Britain and Germany jetting in at the start of this week. 

Middleweight Zhanibek Alimkhanuly, who beat Donegal’s Jason Quigley in the 2013 World Elite final, is included in the Kazakh panel.  Joe Ward, meanwhile, renews acquaintances with Adilbek Niyazymbetov, who he beat in the 2014 Chemistry Cup final in Germany. Admission is €5 for adults and children are free. No scores are kept in test matches.

Meanwhile, Barnes, Conlan and Ward have been named in an Irish squad heading to the Socikas Multi-Nations, which begin in Kaunas, Lithuania on May 17.


RISING star James McGivern will bid to emulate his fellow Commonwealth Youth Games medallist Brett McGinty by winning an Irish U18 title at Dublin’s National Stadium on Friday night.

Oakleaf welterweight McGinty, who won silver in Samoa last September, lifted gold in impressive fashion last weekend when he stopped Glasnevin’s Jordan Meredith in the second round.

Meredith’s club-mate Jordan Lynch made up for that defeat somewhat when he got the better of Immaculata’s Conor Dempsey in the light-flyweight final. McGivern, who has won Irish titles at all grades and lifted Commonwealth Youth gold, will face Nathan May (Dublin Docklands) after comfortably dealing with Enniskerry’s Sean Purcell last Saturday.

He is not the only Ulster fighter in action on Friday night, as Old School flyweight Terry McEntee takes on Crumlin’s Craig Kavanagh, having beaten Cork’s highly-rated Thomas McCarthy at the semi-final stage.


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