Boxing

Ulster trio Jude Gallagher, Kane Tucker and Caitlin Fryers get the job done at Irish U18 Championships

Kane Tucker with IABA president Dominic O'Rourke and Holy Family coaches Gerry Storey, Gerry Storey jr and Kevin Morgan
Neil Loughran

JUDE Gallagher, Kane Tucker and Caitlin Fryers completed a hat-trick of Ulster title winners at the Irish U18 Championships in Dublin last Friday night - with Gallagher and Fryers now turning their attention to next month’s World Youth Championships in Hungary.

Two Castles rising star Gallagher took a split decision win over familiar foe Adam Hession to take the light-fly crown, and now looks to build on the European bronze medal he won in Italy at the end of April.

It was a ninth Irish title for the 16-year-old from Tyrone and his third this season.

Fryers, meanwhile, took the 51kg crown when she beat Carndonagh’s Jessica Clarke on a 4-1 split.

The Immaculata pocket rocket came from nowhere to claim bronze at last year’s World Youths in India, and will fancy her chances of going even further when she heads out to Budapest with the 11-strong Irish team on August 18.

The Worlds run from August 20-31, and provide a possible pathway to the Youth Olympic Games, which take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina in October.

Tucker, meanwhile, landed his ninth national title as he now moves into the world of senior boxing, with next year’s Ulster Elites expected to be his first appearance at that level.

The 18-year-old recently moved up to light-heavyweight, and was always in control against Jack Lawlor from Thurles.

“Every year it gets harder, people are growing up and everyone starts evening out in terms of power,” he said.

“It’s more technical whereas maybe from 11 to 17 or so you could win off pure power and strength but now there’s more skill involved.

“That’s the third Irish final I’ve fought him and I’d say that was the most straightforward one, so the move up in weight is perfect for me just now.

“When your hand is raised it’s still a great feeling.”

Tucker has been down at the High Performance unit in Abbotstown during recent weeks, mixing in elite company after sharing the ring with Irish middleweight king Michael Nevin.

And that could be followed up by some rounds with three-time European champion Joe Ward in the near future as he continues his preparation for the step up to senior.

“It’s been tough,” continued the Newry teenager, who boxes out of the Holy Family club in Belfast.

“I’m going down next week and Joe Ward could be there. I was sparring Michael Nevin there a few weeks ago and it was good work - you can barely hit him.

“He was always two years older so I’d never have fought him but he’s very technically good and strong too. Maybe I’m just not used to fighting seniors yet… I suppose I’d need to get used to it if I’m going to be sparring Joe Ward!

“That was my last youth competition so the next competition will probably be the Ulster seniors so that’s something to build towards.”

There was to be no Immaculata double at the National Stadium on Friday sadly as Danny Duffy came up short against the hugely-talented Terry Donoghue of St Michael’s, Athy at flyweight.

Brandon McCarthy, who defeated Star’s John Paul Hale in the final of the last U18 Championships and is also bound for next month’s Worlds, was too good for Crumlin’s Killian Geraghty at 56kg.

And at bantamweight, Ballymun’s David Oliver Joyce, who defeated Holy Trinity’s highly-rated Barry McReynolds en route to the decider, had too much for James Power to land the 60kg crown.

Ulster high performance head coach John Conlan welcomed 40 youth and junior boxers up to Jordanstown last week for a five-day training camp. Picture by Mark Marlow

ULSTER HEAD COACH CONLAN 'IMPRESSED' BY BIRMINGHAM 2022 HOPEFULS

IT was while sitting down for a final dinner with the Northern Ireland boxers in Australia’s Gold Coast that John Conlan’s thoughts turned to Birmingham in four years.

Of that team, captain Sean McComb and Olympian Steven Donnelly have already turned pro, with others expected to follow suit upon completion of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic cycle.

Team NI returned from Down Under with an impressive haul of six silver medals (Brendan Irvine, Kurt Walker, Aidan Walsh, Kristina O’Hara, Michaela Walsh and Carly McNaul) and two bronze courtesy of James McGivern and Donnelly, who also medalled at the 2014 Games in Glasgow.

Yet no sooner had the latest Commonwealths come to a close than Conlan was thinking of the 2022 Games, and last week he welcomed 40 youth and junior boxers from across the north up to the Ulster high performance base at Jordanstown for a five-day camp.

And this, he insists, was the first step on the road to Birmingham – and possibly the Paris Olympics in 2024 - for several of the young hopefuls.

Conlan said: “I was sitting in Australia on the last evening watching the guys all having their last meal together, and I looked around to see who would still be here in four years’ time and I didn’t think there’d be too many.

“So I came back and sat down with some people that I trust and came up with the idea to bring in all the number ones and twos, some Ulster champions at weights that weren’t contested in Dublin.

“They’re all our talent, so let’s bring them up, show them what high performance is all about, have a look and see where they are so it was a fantastic exercise.”

Last week’s camp is only the start of the process as the next generation of Ulster boxers bid to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Katie Taylor.

In their introduction to the high performance set-up, the focus was on fundamentals, and Conlan admits he was impressed by the talent on show.

He continued: “I was really impressed. Some coaches are doing a great job in their clubs.

“They’re all talented athletes, and we went over the fundamentals – footwork routines, upper body movement, hand and eye co-ordination, change of direction. Just going over the basics again to make sure that, in four years’ time, these guys are well balanced, well rounded athletes.

“We’re going to try and work closely with this group over the next four years, challenge them at camps and competitions, bring them in for training, try and improve their skills and prepare them for international boxing.

“We’re looking at Birmingham in four years, and Paris even further down the line.”

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