GAA Football

Fearghus Quinn and Brett McGinty expected to serve up Ulster Hall classic on finals night

Camlough's Fearghus Quinn (left) lost out to the experienced Steven Donnelly in the 2017 Ulster elite final. He faces Oakleaf's Brett McGinty at the Ulster Hall on Saturday night. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

THE Ulster Hall has been home to some classic battles through the years, and Saturday night’s highly-anticipated showdown between big-hitting Fearghus Quinn and Brett McGinty looks sure to join that illustrious list.

Quinn was involved in a barn-burner in his last appearance at the famous old venue, losing out on a split decision to the experienced Steven Donnelly in the 2017 Ulster Elite Championship final.

And the Camlough middleweight, who won the 2016 Ulster title, will be back for more this weekend, his mouth-watering duel with McGinty one of the most eye-catching bouts scheduled for finals night.

Oakleaf's McGinty was a convincing winner in his semi-final against Eraid Muihai - though the Dockers man landed some nice shots in the final round - and his all-action style ensures he is always entertaining to watch.

However, while many are predicting a phonebox-style war, Quinn’s trainer isn’t so sure.

Martin McCusker was ringside at the Dockers Club last Tuesday night to watch McGinty in action, and also saw him lose out to Monktown’s Aidan Walsh in the 2017 welterweight final.

And he feels his man is capable of adapting to any style of boxing.

“Fearghus is a quiet fella. The better the opponent, the better he fights - he’s an all-round competitor, and his fitness would be fairly high,” said McCusker.

“Quinn has a good brain on him, he can box on the front foot or the back foot and you’ll always get a high work-rate with him. He’s a great third round man; four rounds would probably suit him better because of his fitness.

“I’d say most people going to the Ulster Hall will be expecting a tear-up. We know young McGinty will come looking for him, but you could see a different Quinn on the night.

“I think Quinn might be just a wee bit too strong, but then I could be wrong.”

Quinn, a former Armagh minor footballer and a stalwart of the Belleek club, caught the eye during an Ulster High Performance training camp in Germany at the end of November.

After dropping a debatable split decision in his first fight, the 23-year-old impressed against Stephan Nikitin. McGinty also defeated the German number one when another Ulster team travelled to Baden-Württemberg a few weeks later.

Both come into Saturday night’s showdown in good form, while they will also have an eye on next month’s Irish Elite Championships – the first step on the road to Tokyo for hopefuls across the country.

And there will be no shortage of talent bidding for the 75kg crown.

“Fearghus’s heart is set on the Olympics,” added McCusker.

“He was a bit disappointed last year that he didn’t get to the Commonwealths. Michael Nevin’s the reigning champion there, he beat Brett in the final last year, but maybe the pick of them is wee [Gabriel] Dossen.

“To me though, those lads are just coming into senior level – Quinn’s been about at senior level, so he’s seasoned to it. I just see a wee lack of power in the younger lads.”

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Jamie Conlan will be on co-commentary duty at the Ulster Hall on Saturday night

BBC TO STREAM ULSTER ELITE FINALS

BBC Northern Ireland is to stream live coverage of this weekend’s Ulster Elite Championship finals at the Ulster Hall.

It is the second time in-a-row the BBC has got behind the championships, having also streamed the 2017 Ulster finals when Commonwealth Games qualification was up for grabs.

In the heyday of the Ulster Elites, or Ulster seniors as they were previously known, the fights were always broadcast live by BBC NI.

The first fight, Donna Barr (Illies GG) v Chloe Fleck (Canal), is scheduled to start at 7pm. A limited number of tickets are still available, though a sell-out is expected.

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JP Hale (left) and Colm Murphy have met once before, in early 2017, with Hale getting the nod from the judges

MURPHY AND HALE TO RENEW RIVALRY ON ULSTER AND ALL-IRELAND STAGE

COLM Murphy and JP Hale will be sick of the sight of each other by the time January is done and dusted, with the talented pair due to meet twice in the space of a week.

The two bantamweights have been busy, with both booking their place in the Ulster Elite Championship finals on Tuesday night before, on Saturday, coming through semi-finals at the Irish U22 Championships in Dublin.

St George’s ace Murphy impressed en route to his Ulster victory over Conor Kerr, picking his shots beautifully, and he did the job again at the National Stadium, easing past Crumlin’s Cian Doyle.

Hale, meanwhile, produced a power-packed performance to defeat defending Ulster champion Eamon McNally at the Dockers club, forcing two standing counts, before coming through a tough fight with the highly-rated Sean Purcell (Enniskerry) at the weekend.

The all-action 18-year-old took a 3-2 split decision to ensure he and Murphy would be getting acquainted twice in a short space of time, their U22 final set for Friday, January 25.

Murphy and Hale have met once before, in 2017, with the Star man getting the nod after an engrossing encounter that drew a standing ovation from the crowd.

A similarly intriguing couple of clashes look to lie ahead, and St George’s coach Danny Boyd insists there is no doubt about which title would mean more to Murphy and the Markets club.

“I would take the Ulster senior title all day long,” admitted Boyd.

“There’s a lot of history for our club in this competition. It’s a big deal for us.”

St George’s famously hold the record for the most Ulster title winners in a night at the 1952 championships, when Paddy Graham, Bobby Hasty, Billy Wright, George Lavery, Tommy Norton and John Little were their super six.

On Saturday they will also have James McGivern in action as he eyes a second Ulster elite title in-a-row. The Commonwealth Games bronze medallist faces Dylan Duffy in the 63 kilo final.

It is a busy period for some of the other fighters in action at the Ulster Hall this weekend too.

Jack O’Neill (Corpus Christi), who beat Holy Family’s Diarmuid Toland in the light-fly semi-final, faces Rory Baird on Saturday night, and then former pro boxer Regan Buckley in the U22 decider the following Friday.

Caitlin Fryers, who faces Commonwealth Games silver medallist Carly McNaul for the Ulster title, will take on Ryston’s Niamh Early for the Irish 51kg crown on January 25.

Errigal’s Dominic Bradley missed out on a place in the Irish U22 final after losing to Ballymun’s David Oliver Joyce last Friday, but is back between the ropes this weekend, up against Holy Trinity’s Barry McReynolds at 60kg.

Dungloe’s Matthew McCole will meet Pierce O’Leary (Dublin Docklands) in the U22 final after his unanimous victory over Old School’s Terry McEntee.

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