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Back in the day: The Irish News, Dec 18 1997: Tommy Waite pin-sharp prepared to face Irish title challenge

READY AND WAITE-ING...Belfast’s Tommy Waite is the underdog for tonight’s All-Ireland bantamweight title fight against Vince ‘the Sligo Kid’ Feeney

BELFAST’S pint-size pretender Tommy Waite says the time is right to make his first dent in the punch-for-pay title market.

The 25-year-old goes for broke this weekend for the vacant All-Ireland bantamweight championship, in only his eighth professional fight.

Waite faces ante-post favourite Vince Feeney, the ‘Sligo Kid’, who stands at just five feet four and a half inches but is head and shoulders above Waite in terms of experience.

Waite is undeterred. He has never felt as pin-sharp for any challenge, has put in solid sparring and says focus, self-belief and sheer determination will not be in short supply.

“The chance has arrived quickly, but I feel I am ready to move on, my coach believes I am ready to make the move, and I aim to take it,” said the Shankill Road box/fighter.

“I aim to take it,” he said. “All my training has been stepped up for this, doubled at least, and changes had to be made to meet this challenge the way I wanted to, the way I had to.”

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CROKE PARK’S irresistible urge to tinker with the rules of football will have a major effect on this season’s McKenna Cup competition.

A total of six experimental changes were confirmed for the four secondary provincial competitions yesterday, including a restriction on the hand pass to fist passes only, as well as awarding a mark when a ball is caught directly from a kickout.

According to the announcement by the National Football Development Committee, players will be permitted to lift the ball off the ground “providing they are not kneeling, sitting or standing”.

A ‘two caution’ system is also to be introduced in an attempt to stamp out pulling and dragging, according to coaching and games development manager Pat Daly.

“If a player is guilty of pushing, pulling or holding, they will be cautioned as well as conceding the free, and on the second caution he will be sent off for the remainder of the game,” he said.

Players this year will be limited to one bounce and toe tap as part of the committee’s strive towards a more direct game.

Each team will be allowed to use five substitutions, but the player being replaced must have left the pitch before the replacement will be allowed on.

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SEAN O’NEILL from Newry is the new Northern Ireland U19 champion having won the Jimmy Martin Memorial championship at the Queen’s Hall, Newtownards.

The event has been going strong now since Jimmy Martin’s death in the early 1980’s and it was good to see the finals back at the Queen’s Hall venue where the prizes were handed over by his widow Jean. Sean O’Neill became the latest winner of the event which is held as a county championship in the early stages with the champions and runners up coming through to the final stages.

He also stamped his mark with a new championship record with a 132 clearance in his final with Maynard Hamilton from the Windsor club in Belfast winning in four straight frames.

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MICHAEL Dwyers GAC was the venue for a feast of fistic fireworks last Friday night as Immaculata ABC held an 11-bout boxing bill.

Boxers from Newhill, Corpus Christi, All Blacks, Antrim, Bishop Kelly and Cairn Lodge pushed the Immaculata boys all the way and the crowd roared approval at the skill and bravery on display. Barney O’Neill and Kevin O’Hara recorded inside-the-distance wins with explosive punching and Ciaran Healy outscored All-Ireland champion Shane O’Hagan in the best contest of the night.

Healy built up a commanding lead but faded in the final round against a durable opponent.

The ‘ sweet science’ on show in the early programme from Jim and Tony Lyness (Immaculata) Martin McAnally (Immaculata), C Fegan (Newhill) and R Mulhern (Corpus Christi) was unbelievable.

They bobbed and weaved, jabbed and hooked, and slipped and turned their opponents with a skill and grace that belied their years.

The ‘noble art’ is alive and flourishing.

The final contest was a lively affair. The strong and aggressive Paddy Maguire overcame a determined challenge from D Owens (Cairn Lodge).

The ‘most promising young boxer’ trophy went to the Thomas Campbell and Martin McAnally took the ‘boxer of the year’ award.

The Irish News donated the trophies and Commonwealth cruiserweight champion Darren Corbett presented them.

C Fegan (Newhill) v J Lyness (Immaculata) No Decision R Mulhern (Corpus Christi) v S Mcmillen (Immaculata) No Decision E Trimble (All Blacks) lost to T Lyness (Immaculata) Pts B Gillen (Antrim) lost to M McAnally (Immaculata) Pts G McCullough (Newhill) lost to L McMillen (Immaculata) Pts S Gillen (Antrim) lost to B O’Neill (Immaculata) Rtd 3rd T Campbell (Immaculata) beat P Mongan (Immaculata) Pts S Carlin (Immaculata) and G McManus (Immaculata) Exhibition S O’Hagan (Bishop Kelly) lost to C Healy (Immaculata) Pts T Maloney (Antrim) lost to K O’Hara (Immaculata) Rtd D Owens (Cairn Lodge) lost to P Maguire (Immaculata) Pts

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