Boxing

Aidan Walsh hoping to follow big sister's lead as both plan Commonwealths bid

Aidan Walsh won a Commonwealth Youth Games gold medal in 2015, and hopes to add a senior medal in Australia next year. Picture by Hugh Russell

AFTER too much time spent watching from the sidelines at the end of last year, Aidan Walsh is determined to make up for lost time by finishing 2017 with a bang.

The talented 20-year-old broke his hand twice in the space of three months towards the close of 2016, preventing him from entering his first Irish Elites.

With injury also keeping big sister Michaela out of those championships, it was a frustrating time in the Walsh household.

Michaela has already moved on from over a year without throwing a competitive punch in anger by landing a European gold medal last month – a success made all the more remarkable considering she wasn’t included in the initial team bound for Italy.

And, with both having moved to Monkstown boxing club earlier this year, Aidan returns to the ring at the end of this week as part of a County Antrim team heading to a multi-nations team in Barcelona.

He took great inspiration from seeing Michaela on top of the podium in Cascia, and both are determined to make sure they are on Team NI at next April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.

“One hundred per cent,” says Walsh, who won a gold medal at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa.

“Michaela’s my number one role model in sport. There are so many big names in boxing in Ireland at the minute but if people saw the work Michaela puts in, even the last year with not going to the Olympics and stuff, Michaela was still in the gym every day.

“Before she left to go to the Europeans, she was enjoying training, enjoying everything. When I’m in the gym with her, she pushes me on. People don’t see the hard work she puts in - that motivates me every day.

“Just being around her and knowing that she has the skill and ability to go and win gold medals, that gives me confidence. It makes me believe I can go on and achieve what she has done.

“Michaela was at the last Commonwealths and she’s coming back to get the gold. I won gold at the Commonwealth Youths so now I’m pushing on to do the same at the senior games.”

And the left hand that suffered two breaks in such a short space of time is now fully healed and ready to do damage, he says.

“The first time I broke it was in the first fight at the Ulster intermediates, in the second round. I got over that, was back going great, and then I was up sparring Gerard French in Clonard and broke my thumb.

“It was just one of those times where it was hard because I’d been feeling so good. So I had to turn my attention to next year and making sure I was in a better place.”

The Celtic Box Cup in Dungarvan is up next once he returns from Barcelona, and could see him come up against reigning welterweight king Dean Walsh.

Having sparred alongside the likes of pro fighter Paddy Gallagher, Caoimhin Hynes and Nathan Watson, Walsh believes he is ready for the step up – especially with the Ulster Elites only eight weeks away.

He said: “My goal in 2015 was to be the youth Commonwealth champion, my goal for next year is to be the senior Commonwealth champion. I believe I can go all the way.

“Since I won the gold in Samoa, I’ve had a few ups and downs but now is my time to make a statement and say I haven’t gone anywhere.

“I believe I’m the number one 69 and I hope to God I can go in and prove it.”

County Antrim team

49kg: C Fleck (Canal), C McNaul (Ormeau Road); 52kg: Conor Quinn (Clonard); 56kg: Eamon McNally (St Michael’s); 60kg: Seamus Og Deeds (Emerald); 64kg: Nathan Watson (Saints); 69kg: Aidan Walsh (Monkstown); 75kg: Caoimhin Hynes (Holy Trinity). Coach: Tony Leonard; R&J: Malachy Scott; Team manager: Harry Cunningham

Conor Wallace last fought back in April when he came out on top of a hard-fought encounter against American number one Alejandro Wagner

WALLACE HOPING TO MOTOR ON AS HE RETURNS TO THE RING IN DETROIT

WITH the Ulster Elites in November nearing, Conor Wallace knows the next couple of months are crucial if he is to achieve his dream of making it to Australia’s Gold Coast next year.

Without a fight since April, the Newry southpaw had been scouting about for some competitive action in the coming months, and had pencilled in the Celtic Box Cup at the start of October.

However, when the opportunity to travel to renowned US fight city of Detroit presented itself, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

And yesterday he set off for Motor City with an Irish team geared up for the return leg of last April’s all-action showdown with their American rivals at the Devenish Complex.

While away, he will box first in Detroit, before lacing up gloves again in Cincinnati. On the last Bridges Beyond Boxing show, he had an all-out war with number one-ranked American and World number six Alejandro Wagner, and is hoping to sharpen his tools ahead of the Commonwealth Games qualifier.

“I’ve been sparring flat out and I’m ready to go,” said Wallace, who has moved up to 81kg from 75kg, the weight at which he reached the final of the 2015 Irish Elites.

“I’ve been going to Dublin sparring the likes of Tony Browne and Michael Nevin every Saturday, then during the week I’m in my own club – Holy Family, Drogheda - so I’ve been getting plenty of great quality sparring.”

Since leaving middleweight behind, Wallace insists he had a new lease of life. Joe Ward may be a roadblock to any potential Olympic dreams, provided he remains in the amateur game, but the 20-year-old has only one competition in mind.

He added: “I was killing myself making the weight, I was leaving all the good work in the gym and when you seen me, you were only seeing a round of me – one good round, that’s all I was giving you coming towards the end there.

“Now I feel a lot fitter and stronger. I haven’t felt better. All I can focus on is myself - you never know what he [Ward] is going to do. It’s alright saying he’s going to stay but you never know....

“The Commonwealths are top of my list, never mind Joe Ward or anyone.”

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