Boxing

All about the inches for Aidan Walsh as attention turns to Irish Elite Championships

Aidan Walsh in action against Pat McCormack in the welterweight final of the Commonwealth Games. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

IT’S all about the inches now for Aidan Walsh as he begins the countdown to February’s Irish Elite Championships – and hopefully the 2020 Olympic Games.

In his first major competition as a senior boxer, the Monkstown counter-puncher produced a hugely impressive performance at the Commonwealth Games back in April, returning from Australia with a silver medal.

Walsh came up short against England’s rough, tough Pat McCormack in the welterweight decider, but it is an experience he is convinced will stand to him as he sets his sights firmly on Tokyo in two years’ time.

“After that, I know I’m not too far away,” said the 21-year-old, who is part of the Ulster High Performance team that is currently on a training camp in Spain.

“You realise these people you see and you hear of, who are put on a pedestal, they’re only as good as you perceive them to be. They’re not superior; they’re the same as everyone else.

“I’m up there, I’m not any different. At that level, everyone you’re facing is going to be good, they’re going to be strong, agile, fit, so literally one per cent makes the difference.

“Everything has to be precise. Now that’s what I’m working on in the gym. Things you maybe wouldn’t have looked at as much, if you can make that one per cent better or faster, that’s what will make the difference.

“I’m just trying to make everything as perfect as possible.”

It is five months now since Walsh and sister Michaela mined silver in the Gold Coast, and the final against McCormack was a huge step up in class, especially so early in his senior career.

The 23-year-old Geordie is a European silver medallist, has competed in the World Series of Boxing and is also a veteran of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

In terms of experience he held a distinct edge over Walsh, but sharing a ring with McCormack has left the north Belfast man convinced he belongs in such top class company.

“People were texting me saying ‘you’ve got a hard fight’ and all this, but in the last round I remember thinking ‘he’s not as good as everybody is saying’. I suppose that’s where experience comes in.

“Obviously he was the better man on the day, and he has achieved a lot. It was good to be in at that level and know you’re not being outclassed. I was gutted with my performance, gutted I didn’t get the gold medal, but there were just so many positives to take from it all.

“I enjoyed every moment of the Games. I only turned 21 over there, there’s so much more to come. My career has only started.”

And since then Walsh has been working on sharpening his tools and broadening his horizons during two summer trips to the United States.

He was part of a Monkstown/Holy Trinity select that headed to New York in May, before a two-fight tour of Chicago last month.

“I just want to keep busy by fighting. Anything I can get, I’ll take.

“You just always have to have the mindset going in that you’re fighting a world champion. That’s the way I see it. I always go in to fight the way I fight all the time, no matter who I’m in with.

“The guys I fought out in America were good. The Americans are always strong, they’re more professional. They don’t like the amateur style that we have.

“We still have that style of hit and don’t be hit, whereas they want to stand in with you and fight. But it was good experience.”

Upon his return it was straight down to the High Performance unit at Abbotstown as the build-up to the Irish Elites begins.

Walsh has yet to enter the competition having broken a hand just before the 2017 championships, while this year’s Elites took place right in the middle of camp for the Commonwealths.

However, he is looking forward to facing the best Ireland has to offer and building towards 2020.

And, as he enjoys/endures the altitude training in Alicante alongside the likes of Commonwealth Games team-mates James McGivern, Stephen McMonagle, Damian Sullivan and Carly McNaul, Walsh is convinced he isn’t the only Ulster fighter bound for Tokyo.

“The boxers from Ulster who could qualify for the Olympics is crazy, the team’s that strong in the Ulster High Performance, it’s possible that nearly everyone could go down and win the Irish Elites.”

Harry Enright, who died in 2015, is to be honoured at St Matthew's social club in Belfast on Saturday night

ENRIGHT TO BE REMEMERED AT SPECIAL NIGHT IN ST MATTHEW'S

FRIENDS and family will gather at St Matthew’s social club in Belfast’s Short Strand on Friday night to celebrate a legend of the local fight game.

Harry Enright, who died in 2015, was a figure of some renown in Ulster boxing circles and a special mural is to be unveiled at the club where he helped hone the skills of some of the best boxers Belfast – and indeed Ireland - has produced.

A teacher at St Patrick's College, Bearnageeha in north Belfast, Enright was a student of all sports, from Gaelic football and hurling to cross-country running and latterly golf. Boxing, though, was his first love.

A coach at Immaculata ABC and later St Matthew's, he was the country’s first national coach and led the Irish team at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964.

He also took the Northern Ireland select to the last Empire Games in Australia in 1962 and the first Commonwealth Games in Jamaica four years later.

Helping organise Saturday night’s event is Paddy Fitzsimons, who was in Australia and Tokyo with Enright.

Fitzsimons was 16 when he first met Enright, and the man known as ‘The Master’ helped mould Fitzsimons into one of the best Irish boxers of his generation.

He was also his mentor as he moved into coaching at Newington ABC and eventually the Dockers club, where he is still head coach today.

And Fitzsimons feels it is high time Enright was honoured for his contribution to the sport.

“There should have been something done before now because he was a great man,” said Fitzsimons.

"Harry Enright knew everything there was to know about boxing. Even other coaches, he would always have been on hand to give advice. He was that sort of man.

“He deserves to be remembered appropriately because he was someone who gave so much to boxing.”

Saturday night’s event gets under way at 8pm, £5 admission.

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