Boxing

Aidan Walsh on collision course with welterweight rival Kieran Molloy at Irish elites

Aidan Walsh could face welterweight rival Kieran Molloy in the quarter-final of the Irish Elite Championships if he gets past Terry McEntee. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

Amateur boxing: Liffey Crane 2020 Irish Elite Championships

AIDAN Walsh could be on a collision course with reigning Irish welterweight champion Kieran Molloy – if the Belfast man gets past Terry McEntee tomorrow night.

The Monkstown counter-puncher has been paired with former World and European youth medallist McEntee on the opening night of the 2020 Irish Elite Championships, with Molloy lying in wait for the winner on Saturday.

The championships have been brought forward from February 2020 to allow as much preparation as possible for the Irish fighters who travel to London for the European Olympic qualifiers next March.

How much bearing the outcome of these elites has on the Irish team selected remains to be seen, though, with the squad that went to September’s World Championships picked on the basis of a series of test spars at the High Performance Unit (HPU) in Abbotstown.

Walsh was one of those to benefit from that system.

He was edged out by Paddy Donovan at the semi-final stage of the last Irish elites back in February, with Molloy beating the Limerick man in the decider to claim his second 69kg title in-a-row.

However, following Donovan’s switch to the professional ranks, Walsh was invited to the HPU and was eventually selected ahead of Molloy for the Worlds.

That makes the prospect of a showdown so early in this competition all the more intriguing, with many considering Walsh and Molloy the best two welterweights in the country at present.

There were some notable absentees from yesterday’s draw across the weights too, with the likes of European Games gold medallist Kurt Walker, Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine and World champion Kellie Harrington among those to withdraw, despite their names having appeared on Monday’s entry list.

James McGivern (light-welter) and Gabriel Dossen (middleweight) will not defend their titles, while European Games bronze medallist Michael Nevin doesn’t appear either.

It leaves the elites facing something of a credibility crisis, although there are still some very interesting weight classes boasting some of the country’s emerging talents.

Foremost among them is light-heavyweight, where an orderly queue is being formed to fill the Joe Ward-shaped hole at 81kg and put themselves in the frame for a shot at Olympic qualification.

Newry’s Kane Tucker (Emerald) impressed the High Performance coaches sufficiently to earn a place on the World Championships team and, in his first Irish elites, takes on David Biscevis (St Saviours OBA) tomorrow night.

The winner of that contest will face former Irish middleweight champion Emmett Brennan (Dublin Docklands).

There is further Ulster interest in this division, with St John Bosco’s Paul McCullagh up against Arklow’s Sean Crowley. Should McCullagh come through that, it would set up a repeat of his February semi-final showdown against Cork’s Tommy Hyde on Saturday.

Also tomorrow night, St George’s bantamweight Colm Murphy takes on Portlaoise’s Christian Cekiso in the preliminary round while, at welterweight, Michael Bustard (Dockers) and Fergal Redmond (Arklow) fight for the right to face Mullaghbawn powerhouse Eugene McKeever in the last eight.

Flyweight Jude Gallagher (Two Castles), Holy Trinity lightweight Barry McReynolds and Gerard Matthews (St Paul’s) will all be in quarter-final action at the National Stadium tomorrow night.

Elsewhere, the winner of tomorrow night’s middleweight meeting between Keelyn Cassidy (Saviours Crystal) and John Joe Nevin (Crumlin) will come up against Camlough’s Fearghus Quinn at the semi-final stage on Monday.

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Boxing