Boxing

Clonard's Conor Quinn has chance to shine in absence of injured Brendan Irvine as Irish team heads fore Romania

Conor Quinn wants to become Ireland's number one flyweight next year, and has a chance to impress head coach Zaur Antia in Romania this week. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

A STAR-STUDDED Irish team heads for Romania today – and Conor Quinn is determined to make the most of his chance to shine alongside some of the top talents in the country.

Three-time European gold medallist Joe Ward leads the Irish charge in a team that also includes World silver medallist Kellie Harrington, European Union gold medallist Michaela Walsh and European bronze medallist Kurt Walker.

Had he been fit, Brendan Irvine would have travelled as Ireland’s number one flyweight. However, it was revealed last week that the Rio Olympian had undergone an operation on a troublesome wrist injury, keeping him out of action until 2019.

As a result, Quinn has the opportunity to show what he can do at the prestigious Nicolae Linca Golden Belt multi-nations in Galati City as he bids to challenge Irvine for top spot at 52kg next year.

“There are some top nations going over - GB are sending their number one team, so it’s going to be a good competition,” said the Clonard ace.

“This is a chance for me to catch the eye I suppose. I can’t control Brendy’s fitness or wellbeing, I just have to go to these competitions and do what I can do. He’ll be back in 2019, fit and ready, so we’ll see what happens then.”

Quinn lost out to Irvine in their one and only competitive meeting, in last year’s Ulster Elite Championship final, but has grown in confidence and experience since that night in November.

And the Clonard ace believes the Belfast pair, who sparred in Jordanstown before Irvine headed off to the Commonwealth Games last April, will continue to drive each other on.

He said: “I hope that Brendy recovers well and comes back in 2019, ready for the Ulster Elites in January and then the Irish Elites in February. I’d rather both of us enter and whoever wins is the number one then, me or him.

“It seemed like last time I was fighting Brendy, I was this kid and he was the superstar. Nobody gave me a chance. Now maybe the perspective on it will be a bit different, but my approach will be the same.

“The only thing that has changed is I’ll have a bit more confidence because of the year I’m having.”

This will be Quinn’s first competition since the Chemistry Cup back in June, and he has been sparring Dean Clancy, who is preparing for the Youth Olympic Games, and Regan Buckley down in Abbotstown in recent weeks.

The anticipated change in weight classes for the Tokyo Olympics will be in evidence at the Irish Elites in February when, with light-flyweight gone, a flood of entrants is expected at 52kg.

And Quinn is only too happy to have bigger numbers at the weight.

“The more competition, the better,” he said.

“Sometimes you struggle to get fights at the lower weights so I’m happy enough. But then there are probably some light-flyweights out there who are too small to move up, they’re not killing themselves to make 49, so it won’t suit everybody.

“As long as my weight doesn’t change, I’m happy enough. Tokyo will come around pretty soon, and that’s what we’re aiming towards now.

“I just want to get the experience behind me to show what I can do on the elite stage, and to try and get that number one spot to go to the qualification tournaments.

“It’s exciting times ahead. I haven’t been this excited about boxing in a couple of years.”

Irish squad

Male

52kg: C Quinn (Clonard); 56kg: K Walker (Canal); 64kg: W Kelly (Portlaoise); 69kg: K Molloy (Oughterard); 75kg: M Nevin (Portlaoise); 81kg: J Ward (Moate); 91kg: K Afanasev (Smithfield); 91kg+: D Gardiner (Clonmel)

Female

51kg: C Smith (Cavan/Virginia); 57kg: M Walsh (Monkstown); 60kg: K Harrington (St Mary’s); 69kg: G Walsh (Spartacus)

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Kristina O'Hara is hoping to be considered for a box-off that would keep her hopes of competing at the World Elite Championships alive. Picture by Cliff Donaldson

O'HARA HOPES TO BOX-OFF TO KEEP WORLDS DREAM ALIVE

COMMONWEALTH Games silver medallist Kristina O’Hara still hopes to secure a box-off for a place on the Irish team that travels to the AIBA World Championships in November.

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) held an open Irish Elite Championships this month to aid selection for the Worlds in New Delhi.

However, on the eve of the championships O’Hara was informed that she was unable to enter due to a disciplinary matter, which had initially arisen from an issue outside of boxing.

O’Hara strongly contests the suspension, and has since sought legal action after she was unable to participate in the 48kg competition.

The St John Bosco light-fly remains confident that the suspension will soon be overturned, and hopes she will be granted a box-off for a chance to travel to the Worlds.

“At the minute we still don’t know whether they are going to send a full team, or whether it will just be the Olympics weights,” said the 22-year-old, whose coach Gerard McCafferty has also been suspended.

“The central council are pushing for it to be a full team, which would include 48kg, and hopefully that will be the case because all the boxers who win their division should be given the chance to box at the World Championships.

“I think it’s only fair that I should be given a box-off once all this is sorted out.”

O’Hara knows she will have to move up to 51kg eventually if she is to keep alive her dreams of making it to Tokyo 2020.

But she feels that, with Indian star Mary Kom expected to be out of the picture at light-fly in New Delhi, there is a great opportunity to become only the second Irishwoman to win gold at the Worlds, following the lead of the great Katie Taylor.

“From what we have been told, Mary Kom will be moving up to 51 to try and qualify for the Olympics. With her or without her though, I think I’ve a great chance,” said O’Hara, who was edged out by five-time world champion Kom in last April’s Commonwealth Games final.

“There’s still plenty of time an opportunities to qualify for Tokyo afterwards, but this is a chance to make history.”

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Padraig Mooney, Paul McCullough, Jason McKay, Vinny Esler and Nathan Watson at the Torneio De L'Amistat in Barcelona

WATSON GOES FOR GOLD IN BARCELONA

NATHAN Watson claimed top spot on the podium at the Torneio De L'Amistat in Barcelona at the weekend. The slick Saints welterweight impressed in his semi-final win before his final opponent pulled out of the 69kg decider with an injury.

There was no luck for rest of the Co Antrim team, however, as they all bowed out on split decisions. Boxing alongside Watson were fellow welterweight Vinny Esler (All Saints), Jason McKay (51kg) at Canal, heavyweight Paul McCullough (St John Bosco) and Clonard super-heavy Padraig Mooney.

Tony Leonard (Corpus Christi) and Harry Cunningham (Saints) were working the Co Antrim corner, with referee Malachy Scott completing the team.

Saints welterweight Nathan Watson in action in Barcelona at the weekend

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