Boxing

Seconds Out: Jude Gallagher moves on from Olympic disappointment ahead of Ulster Elite bow

Two Castles ace Jude Gallagher proved too strong for Regan Buckley in the flyweight final of the Irish Elite Championships last November, and hopes to carry that form into his new weight class when he makes his Ulster Elite bow at the Devenish Complex tonight. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

JUDE Gallagher insists he has moved on from his Olympic disappointment, and is fully focused on making a winning start on his Ulster Elite Championship bow tonight.

The Tyrone teenager had put himself in the frame for a place on the Irish team bound for the European Olympic qualifier in London next month after a stunning success at the Irish Elites last November.

Just weeks after his 18th birthday, Gallagher burst onto the scene in some style by despatching defending flyweight champion Adam Hession before beating the fancied Regan Buckley in the final.

With Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine battling back from two injury-hit years, the Two Castles man was right in the mix for the 52kg spot on the Irish team – until he was no longer able to make the weight.

A growth spurt contributed to those difficulties and the writing was on the wall when he didn’t travel to a multi-nations tournament in Hungary earlier this month.

Irvine has since been selected for a crack at reaching a second Olympics while Gallagher has made the move up to bantamweight, and will make his 57kg debut in a potential firecracker at the Devenish tonight.

He was paired with last year’s beaten Ulster finalist, Colm Murphy, and that clash with the St George’s man should be worth the entry fee alone.

“Ah, it was disappointing what happened; I really had a good chance. Everything was going well down in Dublin, and it probably would have depended how well I’d have done in that tournament out in Hungary, if I’d been able to go.

“But it just wasn’t meant to be. It takes a while to get over but you have to move on and get on with it. The next Olympics are in 2024 – I’ll still only be 22 then, so I’m still young enough.

“This is a good time for me to move up in weight and go into these Ulster Elites. What happened, happened and that’s it, nothing I can do about it now. I can only focus on the job at hand.

“I know I’ll be strong enough [at bantam] and I’ll use everything to my advantage from moving up – my speed, my skill, and I do still have the power for 57. I’m as big as any 57, so it won’t make a big difference.”

Gallagher watched Murphy’s stunning Ulster final fight with JP Hale at the Ulster Hall last year, and knows he has a major challenge on his hands to make it into Thursday’s semi-final, where Emerald’s Kane Marshall awaits the winner.

“He’s a good lad - I remember watching his fight with JP Hale last year, it was a real toss of a coin and he could’ve got the decision.

“But then he won the U22s the week after, so it just goes to show he’s a good quality opponent. He’ll come to win, and it’ll be a good fight.

“Everybody wants to get to the Ulster Hall, the atmosphere’s unreal there, but I’ve a long way to go before I can even think about that.”

Elsewhere tonight, another promising young pair, Jack McGivern (St George’s) and Clonard’s Ben Ferran, will go toe-to-toe for the right to face Dominic Bradley (Errigal) in the 63 kilo semi-final on Thursday.

McGivern announced his arrival on the senior scene with some impressive performances en route to claiming the Ulster intermediate lightweight crown last October, but the 18-year-old has now moved up to light-welter.

Ferran, meanwhile, has progressed through the underage ranks impressively, saving some of his best performances for big fight nights in the yellow best of Co Antrim.

At 60kg, Holy Trinity’s Mosa Kambule faces off against Cookstown’s Teo Alin in the last four.

Both showcased their potential when coming home with gold from the Celtic Box Cup last September, and another tight tussle is expected.

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Gerry Storey's Holy Family have several fighters in action at the Ulster Elite Championships this week

HOLY FAMILY STALWART STOREY BACKS LAVERY BROTHERS TO SHINE

VETERAN coach Gerry Storey has backed brothers Rory and Ryan Lavery to shine at the Ulster Elite Championships.

The Warrenpoint siblings are both in action tonight, with light-welter Ryan in quarter-final action against Monkstown’s Darryl Clarke, while Rory stepping between the ropes against Star’s Lee McKee in the 63kg semi-final.

And Storey is confident Rory can build on an impressive Ulster showing last year.

“The two boys have been with us a few years now, and they’re coming on well,” said Storey.

“Rory fought James McGivern in the semi-final last year and gave him a great fight. He’s improved since then so hopefully he can show what he can do.

“Everybody wants to try and get to the Ulster Hall – that’s the big prize. That’s why, for me, the Ulster seniors is still special. I still get a real kick out of it.”

The Lavery brothers aren’t the only fighters Holy Family will have in action either, with the exciting Diarmuid Toland taking on Holy Family, Drogheda’s Ricky Nesbitt in an intriguing light-fly semi-final tonight.

Luxembourgian heavyweight Michel Erpelding, who is based in Belfast, faces Newington’s Sean McMullan. Erpelding represented his country at last summer’s European Games, and Storey believes he has what it takes to have a proper tilt at the 91kg title.

“Mich went to the Europeans and that has brought him on a lot. He gave a very good account of himself, but now he has to prove himself in the Ulsters.”

Carly McNaul will defend her Ulster flyweight title against familiar foe Caitlin Fryers on finals night, while club-mate and regular sparring partner Sionan McKenna will face Gilford’s Clodagh McComiskey.

MEANWHILE, 21 young boxers from the Co Derry Board were in action against a Kilkenny, Laois and Carlow select at the Marble City Boxing Club in Kilkenny on Sunday.

The hosts came out 10-9 winners after some competitive contests, with Co Derry Board president Eugene Duffy saying: "It was an excellent competition, and it give the boys a good run out before the North Wests, Ulsters and All-Irelands, as well as dates with the Co Donegal Board after Easter."

ULSTER ELITE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE

Tonight (8pm)

Quarter-finals

57kg: J Gallagher (Two Castles) v C Murphy (St George’s)

63kg: Jack McGivern (St George’s) v B Ferran (Clonard)

63kg: D Clarke (Monkstown) v Ryan Lavery (Holy Family, Belfast)

Semi-finals

49kg: D Toland (Holy Family, Belfast) v R Nesbitt (Holy Family, Drogheda)

60kg: L McKee (Star) v Rory Lavery (Holy Family, Belfast)

60kg: M Kambule (Holy Trinity) v T Alin (Cookstown)

Special contests

60kg: P Devine (Oliver Plunkett) v T Glennon (St Joseph’s, Derry)

75kg: D Oscar (St Michael’s, Belfast) v T Cunningham (St Joseph’s, Derry)

Co Derry Board Championship final

Boy 1 33kg: T McKeown (Churchlands) v D McCloskey (Moneyglass)

Thursday (8pm)

Semi-finals

52kg: J O’Neill (Corpus Christi) WO

57kg: K Marshall (Emerald) v J Gallagher (Two Castles)/C Murphy (St George’s)

57kg: JP Hale (Star) v C Kerr (Monkstown)

63kg: D Bradley (Errigal) v Jack McGivern (St George’s)/B Ferran (Clonard)

63kg: C Ferguson (Emerald) v D Clarke (Monkstown)/R Lavery (Holy Family)

69kg: E McKeever (Holy Family, Drogheda) v E Vuskans (Holy Trinity)

69kg: T Duffy (Clonard) M McCole (Illies GG)

91kg: T Maughan (Cavan) v K Dlugosz (Immaculata)

91kg: S McMullan (Newington) v M Erpelding (Holy Family, Belfast)

91+kg: W Close (BABA) v D Boriskins (Sacred Heart, Newry)

91+kg: F Carrothers (Gleann) v P Rogers (St John’s, Derry)

Tuesday, February 25

Finals (8pm)

49kg: C Biggar (Cookstown) v D Toland (Holy Family, Belfast)/R Nesbitt (Holy Family, Drogheda)

W51kg: C McNaul (Holy Family) v C Fryers (Immaculata)

W54kg: C McComiskey (Gilford) v S McKenna (Holy Family)

75kg: J Tucker (Emerald) v G French (Emerald)

81kg: G McDowell (Eastside) v K Tucker (Emerald)

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