Sport

Ulster Championships could be set for return to Ulster Hall after six years

The Ulster Hall is regarded as the spiritual home in the north, and could yet host this year's Ulster Elite Championships
Neil Loughran

THE Ulster Elite Championships could be set for a return to their spiritual home at the Ulster Hall.

Although the Dockworkers Club has been provisionally listed as the venue for the elites, which are set to be held from November 7-10, it is understood that talks are ongoing with Belfast City Council about the possibility of hosting the competition at the Ulster Hall.

Such a move would be well received by fight fans, many of whom recall watching future greats like Barry McGuigan, Wayne McCullough and Carl Frampton trade leather at the famous venue during the early years of their career.

And a return to the Ulster Hall for the first time since 2011 would be fitting in the year that the Ulster elites also double as a Commonwealth Games qualifier.

Dwindling interest saw just 27 fighters enter last year but, with a team of at least 11 boxers expected to travel to Australia’s Gold Coast for next April’s Commonwealths, there is expected to be huge interest from fighters keen to book their ticket Down Under.

Hosting the championships at the start of November would give Ulster High Performance coach John Conlan over five months to work with his team, provided the selection process is straightforward.

Ahead of the 2014 Games in Glasgow, two box-offs – between Joe Fitzpatrick and Sean McComb, and Sean McGlinchey and Padraig McCrory – were called after that year’s Ulster elites.

McComb was unhappy after Fitzpatrick got the nod from the judges following a close contest and the Holy Trinity fighter, currently preparing for the World Championships later this month, vowed never to box in Ulster again.

That would rule him out of the running for the Gold Coast, but there will be no shortage of top quality names in the frame as Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine, European bronze medallist Kurt Walker, James McGivern, Stephen McKenna, Conor Wallace, Tiernan Bradley, Caoimhin Hynes and recent golden girl Michaela Walsh are among those who will fancy their chances.

It is hoped the November 7-10 dates will be signed off at a central council meeting of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) on Saturday.

However, first the IABA will be asked to reschedule the national senior championships (formerly the intermediates), which are also in the calendar for November.

Ulster Council officials are confident an agreement can be reached, especially considering the Ulster elites has already been shifted from its original scheduled slot in February.

At that time, the championships found themselves sandwiched between the national U22s and the national elites, and were put on the long finger.

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