Brett McGinty hoping it's third time lucky as Irish Elite final fever sets in
CLOSE but no cigar – that has been the story of the last 12 months for Brett McGinty. But, in front of the television cameras this Saturday night, he is determined to write a new script for 2018.
His first year at senior level brought two senior finals and two gut-wrenching defeats.
First, McGinty thought he had what it took to dethrone Dean Walsh in the Irish welterweight decider but the Wexford man used all his experience to get the win.
And last November he finished up second best again, losing a tactical Ulster Elite final to former Commonwealth Youth Games team-mate Aidan Walsh.
Missing out on a place in the Northern Ireland team bound for the Gold Coast sought only to compound feelings of disillusion.
However, after admitting feeling sorry for himself in the weeks after the Walsh, McGinty has come back bigger and stronger.
Making the 69kg welterweight limit was becoming more and more of a struggle so he bit the bullet and made the move to middleweight – and two fights in two nights last weekend saw him book his place in another Irish Elite final.
“This is my third senior competition and I’ve got to the final of all three of them,” said the 19-year-old Donegal native, who boxes for the Oak Leaf club in Derry.
“Last year people were saying ‘there’s young McGinty, he’s got to a senior final, fair play’, but at this stage I’m fed up of getting to finals.
“It’s time to win one of them.”
That is much easier said that done, however, as standing in his way is the prodigiously talented Portlaoise orthodox Michael Nevin.
A European Youth gold medallist with a stack of national titles already accumulated, it is coming up on two years since Nevin last lost on home soil.
But who was it who inflicted that defeat in the 2016 Irish U18s? That’s right – the man who will stand in the opposite corner on Saturday night.
In fact McGinty holds two wins over Nevin, and is determined to complete an impressive hat-trick at the National Stadium.
He continued: “You need to be smart with Michael Nevin.
“If you stand off him, he’ll box the head off you and if you run at him he’ll box the head off you. You need to be composed, use controlled pressure. There’s no point me just running at him because he’ll jab the head off you all night.
“I watched him both nights [last weekend], and Gerard French caught him with a big left hook in the semi-final on Saturday night, gave him a count, wobbled him. He was in trouble – I’ve seen Michael Nevin fight the best of them but I’ve never seen him rocked like that.
“Still he was composed enough to still come back and take the round on every judge’s card, so that shows the calibre of him.
“He’s world class, but I have to be confident because I’m the last person in the country to beat him – I’m sure that’s playing on his mind - and hopefully it will be the same this weekend.”
The two previous bouts have been at 69kg and 70kg but, as McGinty and Nevin have developed physically into two of Ireland’s outstanding prospects, it was inevitable that they would eventually lock horns again at 75kg.
Making the move up to middleweight wasn’t a decision McGinty took lightly, however.
“All my preparation was for 69, that was always the plan,” he said.
“But it was getting to the stage a few weeks out where I was still sitting four kilos over – I was working really, really hard to get the weight down.
“I could have made it, but you have to think how much of a toll it’s going to take on your body. Even in the Ulster seniors, and I’m not making excuses, but I wasn’t at myself. I was beat fair and square on the night but I’ve more gears in me and I didn’t do myself justice.
“Right up to them, sparring the likes of Steven Donnelly and Conor Wallace, Sean McGlinchey from our club, my preparation couldn’t have been any better. I was disappointed and a wee bit surprised how my performance lacked a bit of punch.
“It was tough to take and I was feeling sorry for myself a bit, but you’ll get nowhere feeling like that. It was time to buck up the ideas and get going again.
“Before these seniors I’ve been doing a lot of sparring with Alfredo Meli, and that’s top, top quality sparring. He’s a fit lad, he’d go all day and all night – I’ve never experienced a work-rate like it.
“So hopefully that will stand me in good stead. I’d a quiet year last year, only six fights - three in three weekends for the Irish seniors and two in two weekends for the Ulster seniors, and another one on a home show.
“So to say I was inactive is an understatement. I’d like to be a lot more active this year, and then we’ll see what the future holds.”
GARDINER-KEENAN REMATCH TO TOP THE BILL AT NATIONAL STADIUM
THE much-anticipated rematch between super-heavyweights Dean Gardiner and Martin Keenan will take top billing at finals night of the National Elite Championships on Saturday.
The RTE cameras will be at the National Stadium to broadcast the finals for the first time since 2013, with a selection of the top fights expected to be aired.
Almost certain to be screened is the meeting of Gardiner and Keenan, who faced off last May in a box-off for a place on the Irish team heading for the European Championships.
Clonmel’s Gardiner came up trumps on that occasion, although Rathkeale’s Keenan – the only remaining defending champion – impressed against John McDonnell last weekend and will fancy gaining revenge.
There is plenty of Ulster interest too, with the clash of Caoimhin Hynes and Brian Kennedy in the light-heavyweight final particularly eye-catching.
Hynes only moved up from middleweight after deciding to enter the Irish Elites late in the day, and returned from a pre-arranged five-day break in Amsterdam in time to stun Tony Browne in the 81kg semi-final.
Browne lost out to Joe Ward on a split decision in the 2017 light-heavy final and would have been expected to beat the smaller Hynes, but the Holy Trinity banger edged home to set up a showdown with Kennedy.
European Union gold medallist Michaela Walsh, in camp for the Commonwealth Games in April, will go toe-to-toe with Dervla Duffy in the 57kg decider, while Brett McGinty’s middleweight meeting with Michael Nevin could be another cracker.
Caoimhin Ferguson aims to become Clonard’s first Irish champion in 48 years when he takes on Wayne Kelly, last year’s beaten finalist, at light-welter.
And at light-fly, Ulster Elite champion Ricky Nesbitt looks to add the Irish title against Conor Jordan of St Aidan’s.