Boxing

Colm Murphy ready to grab unexpected Commonwealth Youth opportunity with both hands

The Commonwealth Youth Games boxing team leave for the Bahamas tomorrow. Pictured are, from left, Colm Murphy, Anthony Johnston, Kian Bittles, Dominic Bradley, John Moran and Kane Tucker. Picture by Hugh Russell

WHEN opportunity knocks, you have to be there at the door, arms outstretched, ready to accept whatever comes your way. Just ask Colm Murphy.

The 17-year-old swept the boards at the Ulster Council’s Commonwealth Youth Games tournament at the start of March, yet wasn’t included in the initial squad announced – no boxer was at 56kg.

He was disappointed, of course. Hugely. But there were no petty outbursts on social media, no dropping of the head. Having only come into the sport four years ago, Murphy took the positives – this was another learning experience. Bank it and move on.

But the story wasn’t over yet.

A box-off was scheduled at 64kg between the highly-rated Aaron McKenna and Edgar Vuskans. It never happened.

McKenna was subsequently selected but then pulled out, citing educational commitments, handing the spot to Vuskans.

However, without a passport from a Commonwealth nation, the Glengormley light-welter was also forced out of the running.

All of a sudden, opportunity knocked for Murphy, and the talented St George’s fighter was only too delighted to grab it with both hands.

“My whole family was delighted for me and it’s going to be one to remember,” said the Methodist College, Belfast student.

“I suppose there’s a bit of pressure because my own club-mate James McGivern won gold at the same weight [at the 2015 Commonwealth Youths], and obviously I want to replicate him.

“But I’m more looking forward to it more than feeling pressure because the Bahamas is some place to be going.”

As he prepares to jet off with coaches John Conlan, Pete Brady and the rest of the team tomorrow – the Games begin on July 18 - Murphy has sought the advice of his peer at the famous Markets club.

James McGivern marked himself out as a star of the future when he landed one of three Northern Irish medals in Samoa two years ago, and is on the cusp of making his mark at senior level having moved up to lightweight.

Indeed, having sparred regularly, Murphy knows just how McGivern is.

“He dug the head off me, to be fair,” smiles the teenager.

“But that’s what you need to get better. Having someone like him in the club is the best thing for me. He tries to teach you, and he’s always there to help.”

Considering Murphy is still relatively new to the fight game, to have even reached this grand stage is an achievement in itself.

He has been informed by his experiences in the ring during the early days after joining St Agnes’s and then St George’s, those times when he felt completely out of his depth.

Murphy found the strength to not only get to the higher level, but to keep moving through the gears. According to coach Danny Boyd, he is a trainer’s dream and the relentlessness he brings to each session is now evident when he steps between the ropes.

“In those early days the guys I was fighting had a few years’ experience on me,” says Murphy.

“They’d have much better footwork, they’d be running rings around me to be honest, but I’ve been able to improve thanks to Danny and Jim [McGivern].

"They’re great coaches, I couldn’t imagine myself with anyone else who could bring me on more. They’ve been with me through the low points and the high points.

“When I lose fights they’re there to bring me back up. We’ve got a great relationship. They appreciate the work I put in and I appreciate them coming in after work and putting it all in with us.

“There wouldn’t be a club without them, and hopefully I'll give them something to be proud of in the Bahamas.”

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Kian Bittles hopes to land the flyweight title in the Bahamas. Picture by Hugh Russell

PROSPECT BITTLES AIMS TO EMULATE IRVINE SUCCESS

AT just 16 years old, Kian Bittles is the baby of the six-strong Commonwealth Youth Games team that heads to the Bahamas tomorrow.

And, as a former club-mate of Brendan Irvine, the Blacks Road flyweight is hoping to follow in the footsteps of ‘Wee Rooster’ by making his mark on the international stage at a young age.

Irvine was an underage sensation before winning his first senior title at just 18, going on to land a European Games silver medal six months later. Completing a whirlwind 18 months, he would later qualify for last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.

Bittles used to watch Irvine in action at St Paul’s before moving to Holy Trinity, and saw at first hand what it takes to reach that elite level.

Granted an automatic selection at 52kg while others were forced to box off, Bittles is clearly highly-rated by the Team NI coaching team of John Conlan and Pete Brady.

“I’m excited and looking forward to the whole journey ahead,” said the La Salle, Belfast fifth former.

“This is my first major international tournament, so there’s no pressure on me. I just have to go out and perform.

“It’s been a tough training camp but I feel like I’m ready.”

Light-fly John Moran, from the Illies Golden Gloves club in Donegal, is also relishing the experience.

He overcame Diarmuid Toland in their April box-off, reversing an earlier defeat to the same opponent at the Ulster Council’s Commonwealth Youth Games tournament.

“My tactics were definitely wrong the first day so I changed them up a bit and it seemed to work perfect for me,” said the 18-year-old.

“It was an unbelievable feeling when the decision was announced because these games have been on my radar for a while, I think they’ve been on everybody’s radar.

“It’s a big competition and a big opportunity for us all.”

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European youth silver medallist Caitlin Fryers with, from left, Antoinette Faye-McClean, Jimmy Payne, Bernie Harold and Ger McDaid

SILVER LINING FOR IMMACULATA'S FRYERS IN SOFIA

HIGH-FLYING Caitlin Fryers gave another indication of her huge potential at the weekend, landing a silver medal at the European Youth Championships in Bulgaria.

Immaculata light-fly Fryers - a bronze medallist at the European Junior Championships two years ago - overcame Eliana Pileggi (Switzerland), Christina Madalina (Romania) and Maxi Klitzer (Germany) before falling to the host nation’s Mari Todrova on Saturday.

Coach Kate Meli was delighted with Fryers’s performance in Sofia, and hailed the 17-year-old’s approach to the noble art.

“Caitlin did brilliant,” said Meli.

“She’s very quiet, she trains very hard and then she helps the younger ones out too.

“I’ve been training her since she was nine or so, and she’s coming on leaps and bounds. I’m delighted for her that she got a silver medal, it’s a big achievement.”

In the junior competition, Ireland landed two gold medals, with Enniskerry’s Daina Moorehouse and Geesala’s Aoibhe Carabine both finishing up on top of the podium.

Moorehouse beat England’s Simran Kaur on a unanimous decision to secure the 48kg title, while middleweight Carabine TKO’d Dziyans Novikava of Belarus in the first round in their final.

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