Boxing

Big-hitting Patrick Rogers has sights set on Ulster Elites after Dockers win

Patrick Rogers with brother Brendan, mum Bernie and dad Sean at the Dockers club last Friday night after his Ulster title win
Neil Loughran

PATRICK Rogers may have just missed out on Slaughtneil’s surge to the summit in both Gaelic football and hurling, but the big super-heavyweight isn’t lacking for Ulster titles after defending his senior crown last Friday night.

The 6”6 puncher, who boxes out of the St John’s club in Swatragh, stopped all three of his opponents in last week’s open competition, and is now setting his sights on a tilt at the Ulster Elite Championships in January.

It is a long way from standing on the edge of the square having balls lumped in his direction, and Rogers – older brother of Derry and Slaughtneil dual star Brendan - admits he finally feels he has found his sporting calling between the ropes.

“It had got to the stage where I wasn’t really that good at football,” he laughs.

“You wouldn’t believe how bad I am at catching the ball, honest to God. I’m a handful but I didn’t score that much when I was in there. I really enjoyed the hurling though.

“I started boxing when I was about 20, and it was probably around the time Slaughtneil started winning that I stopped. When they won their first hurling championship, I wasn’t on the team, I was never going to get on the team, so I just thought ‘I’ll go and work hard at something I’ll actually get to do’.

“Obviously my brother Brendan, he gets loads of attention for it, but I wasn’t that good at football anyway and I didn’t enjoy it that much, so I just packed it in and boxed the whole time.”

Brendan was at the Dockers club in Belfast all three nights last week to watch his brother in action, and Patrick admits even having that bit of support from home made all the difference.

“You hear people say it’s great to have the support and you don’t really believe it, but see when you’re in there, I know it’s only Belfast but that’s hostile.

“Everybody in there’s against you, so it’s brilliant to have people there cheering you on.”

And, although he won the same title last year, Rogers insists capturing the 2018 crown meant much more because he had worked so hard to reach that point.

“I knew I had to start taking it more seriously.

“Injuries had kept me around this level the last while. Last year I had two fights but broke my hand in the semi-final so the final was a real hard slog of a fight against a real tough boy.

“I didn’t really enjoy it that much, but back in June I said to myself I was going to make a real big push. I really enjoyed it this year because I was fit and I wasn’t injured.

“This one meant more to me than any other one meant because I put so much into it. Everything I trained for, it worked.”

Holy Trinity’s Stephen McMonigle controversially lost out in the semi-final of last year’s Ulster Elites to Joe Joyce, who was representing the Erne club.

But Rogers still sees the Donegal native, who competed at April’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, as the man to beat at super-heavy.

“Ah he would be, he’s very sharp.

“But look, the Ulster Elites are in January so that’s a serious step up from where I am at the minute. I would need to start over again, so it’s nearly like another pre-season I would have to do to get my fitness levels up to the next step.

“Probably now where I’ll make the biggest improvements is in sparring. It’s difficult when you’re a big lad because there’s not that may of us running about who box.

“All the heavyweights are down in Belfast, there’s not really a pile there even, and then you’ve got the problem of do you want to spar the person you could be fighting in a couple of months?

“But I don’t think I’m that far away from those boys. There’s no reason why I couldn’t be standing in the Ulster Hall at the end of January with my hand raised.

“I remember going to watch Paul McCloskey box in the Ulster Hall and it was mad, absolutely mad. But that could be me next year.”

And, looking even further down the line, the 2022 Commonwealths in Birmingham are firmly on Rogers’s horizon.

“If I stick at it, I can’t see any reason why I couldn’t be,” he added.

Elsewhere, young Ryan Lavery from the Holy Family club was named best boxer at the Ulster Senior Open and Novice Championships after producing two punch perfect performances to take the lightweight title.

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Jon McConnell with Liam Cunningham (left) and Holy Trinity coach Michael Hawkins

LEFT HOOKS

Two up-and-coming stars of Ulster boxing registered impressive wins in the weekend’s senior cadet showdown between Ireland and England in Kildare.

Holy Trinity flyweight John McConnell – part of the Irish team that will head to the European Junior Championships in Russia next month - took a split decision win over Billy Adams.

“It was a good win and a great fight - three really good rounds,” said Holy Trinity coach Michael Hawkins.

“Jon boxed very well. He’s been with us a year now and he’s a very good trainer. If you tell him something, he goes and works on it, so there’s definitely been a big improvement.”

Also catching the eye was Gleann’s Martin Brady, who produced a brilliant performance to outclass the highly-rated Junaid Boston in their 57kg showdown.

Elsewhere on the international bill at St Michael’s, Athy on Friday night, Alannah Mayse (Two Castles) lost out to Alex Brown while Eoghan Quinn (St John’s, Derry) dropped a split decision against Sahil Khan.

Khan also defeated James McDonagh (St Paul’s) in St Brigid’s, Offaly on Saturday night, while St Malachy’s, Camlough lightweight Shane O’Gorman was beaten by Adam Azim.

England won the Kildare leg 13-7 but Ireland levelled matters in Offaly the following night, winning 12-8.

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AN Ulster select will travel to Dublin on Saturday to take on a North Inner City select.

The Dublin team will include fighters from Docklands, Corinthians, Ballybough. The action gets under way at the Ringside club at 2pm.

Ulster select: Conal Crawford (Clonard), Jamie Graham (Clonard), Aaron Treanor (Emyvale), Paul Hanna (Cookstown), Brooklyn McDonagh (Cookstown), Andrew Ward (St Malachy’s), Danny McHugh (Two Castles), Danny Duffy (Immaculata, Strabane), Oran Carton (Maydown Olympic), Caolan Doherty (Two Castles), Shane O’Gorman (St Malachy’s), Shaun Donnelly (Loughshore), Bernie Stokes (Loughshore), Jack Wilson (St John Bosco), Rachel McGuigan (Clonard), Sean Hillick (Clonard), Tiarnan Duffy (Clonard, captain), Alannah Mayse (Two Castles), Cormac Curley (Clonard).

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