Irvine takes big step towards Commonwealth Games with Ulster Elite Championships win
Ulster Elite Championship finals
From Andy Watters at the Ulster Hall
BRENDAN Irvine took a massive step towards next summer’s Commonwealth Games when he won the Ulster Elite Flyweight Championship at a packed Ulster Hall last night.
Irvine came through a sustained assault from gutsy Clonard ABC fighter Conor Quinn to win by unanimous decision over three action-packed rounds.
“I’ve put all my energy into trying to qualify for the Commonwealths so I’m just glad I’ve got here,” said Irvine afterwards.
“Obviously I’ll be one of the most experienced in the team, but I’ll just keep level-headed, I’m just another member of the team.”
It was close-quarters in the first and Quinn had a lot of early success spearing a crisp left uppercut through Irvine’s guard but the ‘Wee Rooster’ adjusted in the second, keeping his distance and picking off Quinn who took too long to get his shots off at times.
The Clonard ABC clubman made a fight of it but couldn’t find a way past Irvine’s jab and the Rio Olympian followed it with a straight right-hand, left hook combination that kept the game Quinn at bay in the final stanza.
“I didn’t use my jab in the first round, but once I got back to the corner my coaches told me what to do,” Irvine explained afterwards.
“They told me to use my jab and that basically won me the fight – I kept him at bay and landed some nice shots. I started slowly and then got back into it and I’m just thankful to get the win.
“He was catching me inside with the left uppercut but I shouldn’t have been caught sitting inside, it’s my own fault. I’m a boxer, I should have boxing from the first round, but I’m happy with my performance.
“My jab was working lovely, it was catching him every single time to the body or head and that’s what we’ve been working on. I’ll go now and relax for a couple of weeks because it’s been all-go.”
Kicking off the night was a barnstorming female light-flyweight final between Kristina O’Hara and Chloe Fleck (Canal). O’Hara, from St John Bosco ABC, Belfast, dominated from the first bell, started behind a crisp jab and then letting her hands go.
She had a lot of success with the right hook to the body in the first round and although Fleck fought back bravely, O’Hara’s pressure and accuracy forced her to take a count in the second.
Midway through the third O’Hara stepped in and forced another count with a rat-a-tat-tat salvo of headshots. She was the unanimous winner with the judges and hopes to have done enough to force her way into the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games team that will travel to the Gold Coast in Australia next year.
“There’s no final decision on what weights their picking or who is going but hopefully that performance was good enough to sway them a wee bit,” said O’Hara.
“Experience just beat that girl. I’m just back from the gym and I haven’t been out of the gym, although I was sick last week, and even then I had the sweatsuit on running trying to sweat it out of me. I was ready for it.
“My coach Gerard McCafferty, he’s also my husband, had me more than ready. My granda Gerry Hale had passed away two weeks’ ago so the fight was dedicated to him, I know he was with me every step of the way.”
In the female flyweight final, Virginia’s Ceire Smith out-pointed Carly McNaul (Ormeau Road) in another engrossing content.
Female light-fly: Kristina O’Hara (St John Bosco, Belfast) bt Chloe Fleck (Canal) UD
Light-fly: Ricky Nesbitt (Carrickmacross) w/o
Female flyweight: Ceire Smith (Virginia) bt Carly McNaul (Ormeau Road) UD
Flyweight: Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s) bt Conor Quinn (Clonard) UD
Bantamweight: Eamon McNally (St Michael’s) bt Conor Kerr (Glengormley) SD
Female 57kg: Michaela Walsh w/o
Female 60kg: Alanna Nihell w/o