Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine aiming to bounce back bigger and better after frustrating 2018
IF there’s one man who won’t be sorry to see the back of 2018, it’s Brendan Irvine.
He may have returned from Australia with an impressive Commonwealth Games silver medal, but an operation on his right wrist has forced the 22-year-old to spend the second half of the year outside the ropes.
Irvine knew what he was doing, of course. The injury first flared up during the Commonwealths training camp and while an injection got him through his five fights in the Gold Coast, it was only ever going to be a sticking plaster.
A June exhibition show in Mayo proved the final straw as, in the weeks after, that familiar pain returned when he hit the bag. Eventually, even lifting the kettle became problematic.
With the Olympic Games still two years away, Irvine knew decisive action was required and went under the knife later in the summer.
“The consultant said when she got in to do the operation, there was more damage than what she thought because I had the MRI in February but then I had the five fights at the Commonwealths,” said the St Paul's clubman.
“I was only meant to be out for half an hour, but I was out for an hour and a half so it was a long process.”
After that, the recovery process got under way. He dipped in and out of the multi-nations training camp in Jordanstown back in October because it was too frustrating to hang about and watch his team-mates spar while he couldn’t.
Heading into 2019, Irvine is still waiting for the all clear from the consultant to start punching again, and as a result the Ulster Elite Open Championships at the start of January will come too soon.
February’s Irish Elites, which mark the first step on the road to Tokyo 2020, remain the immediate priority – although he will continue to listen to his body in the meantime.
Opting for surgery was designed to ensure long term gain for short term pain, and Irvine knows he can’t risk returning to the ring until he is truly ready to be back there.
“That’s why I can’t rush anything,” he said.
“If I rush back too quick, it could set me back even longer and I can’t afford that. The last couple of months have already been frustrating enough, seeing the fella I beat in the European quarter-finals [Spain’s Gabriel Escobar] going on to win the EUs there last month.
“Everyone picks up niggles and injuries, I just have to make sure I’m listening to what the physio and the doctors are telling me to do.
“If I’m ready and I’m feeling good, 100 per cent I’ll be entering them [the Irish Elites] but I’ll not be taking any chances. At the minute I’m taking it week by week and seeing how the recovery goes.”
It is coming up on four years since Irvine burst onto the senior scene in spectacular fashion, beating the experienced Hughie Myers to the Irish Elite light-fly title before winning European Games silver less than six months later.
Paddy Barnes’s presence at 49kg meant the move up to 52kg made sense, though few could have expected Irvine to make a mark at his new weight class so quickly as he went on to secure qualification for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
He bowed out after his first fight in Brazil having been paired with eventual champion Shakhobidin Zoirov, and is determined to make it to Japan as the Olympic fire continues to burn brightly.
“My motivation is still as strong as it was four years ago.
“Obviously I haven’t been able to do as much, boxing-wise, because I’ve been out but it’s still a dream of mine to get an Olympic medal and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I get.
“That’s presuming there still is boxing at the Olympics! I still think that, no matter what, boxing has to go ahead.
“I reckon that even if something happens with AIBA, they’ll form some kind of breakaway group to make sure boxing is still there. It’s too big of a sport for it not to be there.”
And, if Brendan Irvine has anything to do with it, he will be there too - ready to go again.
A five-man County Antrim select is bound for Turin where they will face a strong Italian team on Sunday.
Included on the County Antrim team are Holy Family flyweight Diarmuid Toland, Dylan Duffy (Pegasus) boxing at 64kg, welters Tiernan McMahon (Star) and Anthony Johnston (Gleann) – a 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games silver medallist – and St John Bosco light-heavyweight Paul McCullagh.
The travelling coach will be Danny Whittington from the Pegasus club in Downpatrick, with Immaculata clubman Tom McGaharan referee and judge.
Sunday also sees the weigh-in of the County Antrim 6s novice competition at Girdwood Community Hub, with the action taking place from Monday, December 17-Wednesday, December 19.
THE high standard of boxers coming through the ranks in Ulster was showcased in some fashion at the Ulster 9 Counties Boy/Girl 4,5,6,7 Championship finals on Saturday.
Some of the displays on show at the Shantallow Community Centre in Derry were from the top drawer, demonstrating the strength in depth among the next crop on the way through.
Girl 7 60kg: E McKee (All Saints) bt M Woods (Loughshore) 5-0; Boy 4 39kg: D McGuigan (Clonard) bt C Hall (Dunfanaghy) RSC2; Boy 4 42kg: C Doherty (Two Castles) bt B McComiskey (Gilford) 3-2; Boy 4 46kg: T Conwell (St Canice’s) bt G Nugent (Keady) 3-2; Boy 4 48kg: T Brolly (St John’s) bt S Comiskey (Silverbridge) 5-0; Boy 4 50kg: B Cooke (St John’s) bt B McDonagh (Dunfanaghy) RSC3; Boy 4 52kg: D Keary (Rathfriland) bt E Loughran (Holy Family) 5-0; Boy 4 57kg: O Carton (Star of the Sea) bt T McDonagh (Cavan) RSC2; Boy 4 60kg: C McDonagh (Cookstown) bt L Crawford (Raphoe) 5-0; Boy 4 70kg: C Neill (Ballysillian) bt S Davey (Townland) 4-1; Boy 5 42kg: B Collins (East Down) bt C Dos
Santos (Banbridge) 5-0; Boy 5 46kg: R Mongan (Gilford) bt CL Peoples (Ballykelly) 5-0; Boy 5 50kg: M Reneghan (Armagh) bt P Mullan (Holy Trinity) 4-1; Boy 5 52kg: C Magill (Glengormley) bt D Doyle (Gilford) 5-0; Boy 5 54kg: J Gray (St Monica’s) bt C Gormley (Illies GG) 3-2; Boy 5 57kg: J McVicar (Castleblayblaney) bt C McCann (Holy Trinity) 5-0; Boy 5 60kg: R Johnstone (Clonard) bt J Doyle (Gilford) 3-2; Boy 5 63kg: D Waugh (Rathfriland) bt R O’Gorman (St Malachy’s); Boy 5 70kg: O Wallace (Dunfanaghy) bt C Donnelly (Rathfriland) 5-0; Boy 5 75kg: E McGovern (Cavan) bt D McHugh (Two Castles) 5-0; Boy 5 80kg: K Quinn (St Paul’s) bt J Maughan (Omagh B&G) 5-0; Boy 5 91+kg: O O’Reilly (St Mary’s) w/o; Boy 6 48kg: S Neeson (Moneyglass) bt P Gordon (East Down) 4-1; Boy 6 52kg: J McConnell (Holy Trinity) w/o; Boy 6 54kg: B Marshall (Emerald) bt J Harkin (Oakleaf) 5-0; Boy 6 57kg: T Orr (Lisburn) bt J Hanvey (All Saints) 5-0; Boy 6 60kg: T McCann (St Paul’s) bt A Cunningham (Carndonagh) 5-0; Boy 6 63kg: E McCaul (St Joseph’s) bt S O’Gorman (St Malachy’s) 3-2; Boy 6 66kg: L McMonagle (Raphoe) bt M O’Donnell (Illies GG); Boy 6 75kg: T Mayse (Two Castles) bt D Oscar (St Michael’s); 5-0; Boy 6 80+kg: M Duffy (Virginia) w/o; Boy 7 52kg: J Gallagher (Two Castles) v C Bonner (Star of the Sea) – to take place at Ulster Elites next month; Boy 7 56kg: E McGarrell (Raphoe) bt C Fisher (Holy Trinity) 3-2; Boy 7 60kg: J McGivern (St George’s) w/o; Boy 7 64kg: G Arthurs (Gleann) bt S Jackson (Dunfanaghy) RSC1; Boy 7 69kg: R Mulrine (Convoy) W/O; Boy 7 75kg: E McClorey (St Bronagh’s) bt L Ward (SJ Bosco, D) 4-1.