Boxing

Derry welter Brett McGinty hoping to rock the Ulster Hall on finals night

Brett McGinty has never set foot in the Ulster Hall before, but hopes to change that by reaching the finals of this year's Ulster Elite Championships. Picture by Philip Walsh

HE has never “darkened the door” of the Ulster Hall before, but Brett McGinty plans to change that by making sure he is at finals night of the Ulster Elite Championships next month.

The provincial showpiece will be held at the historic venue for the first time since 2011 on November 24 and, with qualification for a place on the 2018 Commonwealth Games team up for grabs, it is fitting that boxing makes a return to its spiritual home.

Dwindling entry levels have dampened enthusiasm in the Ulster Elites during recent times but that is likely to change this year, with a high quality field expected in several weight classes.

And, having grown up hearing tales of famous nights at the Ulster Hall, Oak Leaf fighter McGinty is determined to book his place at finals night.

“I’ve never been in it - never darkened the door,” said the 19-year-old from Derry.

“Everybody’s been telling me it’s one of the best venues they’ve ever been in for boxing so I’m looking forward to hopefully being there on Friday the 24th.

“My coach Eugene O’Kane is on the Ulster Council and they made a big push to get it back there. He’s been telling me that when he was coming up there was no better night of boxing than Ulster finals night at the Ulster Hall.”

What weight class McGinty enters at has been the subject of some speculation, with rumours flying about that he could be about to move up to 75kg.

However, he insists he will be entering at his more familiar 69kg.

“A lot of people have been saying that [about moving up] but no, I’m staying at 69,” said McGinty.

“I’m not sure what will happen down the line because 69, I don’t find it easy to make it, but I find it too easy to make 75 and there’s too big of a gap there.

“I’ll just do what I do to make 69. The weigh-ins of the Ulster seniors are on a Sunday so you don’t have to fight the same day - I’ll have no problem making it.”

Welterweight is shaping up nicely, with the likes of Gerard French, Michael Bustard and McGinty’s 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games team-mates Aidan Walsh and Tiernan Bradley also in the mix, although Bradley may yet drop down to 64kg.

Walsh landed light-welterweight gold in Samoa two years ago, while McGinty and Bradley both returned home with silver as all three served notice of their talent.

And with Walsh – brother of 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Michaela – having already declared his intention to go to the Gold Coast, it could make for an interesting scrap if the pair come face to face.

“It would be a tough fight,” said McGinty.

“Aidan has plenty of ability, and he’s another man who is well able to make the step up and do it at senior level. It’s all on the day.

“I’m really looking forward to it and looking forward to getting into the ring. They were meant to be at the end of September, and I’ve been training for months on end now. I’m fed up talking about it, saying it’s six weeks, five weeks, four weeks.

“It was put back then so I was counting down again. I took a week out because I didn’t want to peak too early and now I just can’t wait to get in and fight.

“It looks like it’ll be a competitive weight. There’s going to be a few older boys with a good bit of experience and then a few others like myself coming through who haven’t had as much experience but are well capable of competing at senior level.”

And, having competed at the highest level for Ireland through the age grades, McGinty has an added incentive for making it to Australia.

He said: “I’ve been to four European Championships and the World Championships and every single time they’ve been in Russia.

“Four times I was in Anapa – I know Anapa like the back of my hand now. Even the thought of going anywhere but Russia is brilliant, and the Gold Coast is supposed to be a beautiful part of the world.”

Fearghus Quinn has his sights set on defending the Ulster Elite middleweight crown he won in 2015. Picture by Aidan O'Reilly

MIGHTY QUINN HOPING TO DEFEND MIDDLEWEIGHT TITLE AT ULSTER ELITES

IT’S almost two years since Fearghus Quinn was crowned Ulster Elite champion, and the Camlough fighter is determined to defend that title at next month’s championships.

The 21-year-old defeated Conor Wallace in the middleweight decider at Newry’s Bellini’s nightclub back in November 2015 but, with a Commonwealth Games place at stake, competition is likely to be taken to a new level this year.

Already the likes of Holy Trinity’s Caoimhin Hynes and Emerald’s Conor Doherty are in the mix, while Rio Olympian Steven Doherty could yet move up from welterweight to contest at 75kg.

The lure of the Gold Coast next April is proving strong, as is the fact finals night will be back at the Ulster Hall, and Quinn wants to give himself the best possible chance of being on the team that heads Down Under.

“I’d say there’ll be a lot more entries this time around, and it’s good to get a bit of competition back. It means a lot more if you win the Ulster seniors and you’ve earned it,” said Quinn, who narrowly lost out to eventual champion Emmett Brennan at this year’s Irish Elites

“It pushes you on in training knowing there’ll be a lot of boys looking get their name on the trophy. All the weights will probably see bigger entries and, definitely in middleweight, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

“To win an Ulster title was always something I wanted to do and obviously I’d love to defend it successfully.”

Quinn is currently in the middle of a finance degree at Queen’s University, and is spending this year out on placement at financial services company FinTrU in Belfast.

As a result he trains at Gerry Storey’s Holy Family club some of the time, with the rest back at home under the watchful eye of Camlough coach Martin McCusker.

A talented Gaelic footballer, the former Armagh minor is also a key man for the Belleek club.

Yet, despite that hectic schedule, Quinn insists he is fully focused on the task at hand.

“It’s not too bad,” he added.

“I’m able to balance everything alright. It just depends on your managers in football working with you, and I’ve been lucky anybody managing me has understood my commitments. It’s worked out well so far.”

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