Ireland to the four in England encounter

 Irvine lost in the preliminaries at Rio 2016 to Uzbekistan’s eventual Olympic champion Shahobiddin Zoirov
Bernard O'Neill

IRELAND were en route to victory over England after taking an unassailable 4-0 lead in last night’s Elite International at Dublin’s National Stadium.

Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine, Stephen McKenna, Moira McElligott and Sean McComb, debuting at 64kg, earned four wins on the bounce with just three bouts remaining.

Irvine, who lost in the preliminaries at Rio 2016 to Uzbekistan’s eventual Olympic champion Shahobiddin Zoirov, beat the tricky Ishmail Khan in the 52kg division.

The pick of Irvine’s shots was a right uppercut followed by a straight right which clearly rocked the durable Ismail midway through the second round.

In fairness to the Englishman, he wasn’t backing off, but all the clean work came from Irvine who had his hand raised in victory on a split decision – it should have been a unanimous.

The 20-year-old Belfast fly admitted he was tempted to follow his fellow Rio Olympians Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan into the pro ranks during a recent visit to New York to meet family. He said: “It’s good to get that one out of the way, first fight back since the Olympics and that will do nicely ahead of February’s Seniors. He’s a long fella, long time since I met someone that long.

“You know when you dedicate 10 years of your life (reaching the Olympics) and it’s over after nine minutes in a ring, I was thinking about it in New York. My family was saying to me you can stay here, we will look after you.

“It makes you stop and think about everything, I know it’s only four years, but it’s another four years doing the same thing. I am still young. I’m gonna stick around, I still want that Olympic medal.”

McKenna got Ireland off to a winning start on a split over the lively Louis Lynn. Both bantams found the target throughout an engaging contest; the industrious Lynn working well on the inside, McKenna’s best work coming toward the end of each round.

McElligott switching occasionally to orthodox, also earned a split decision win, the St Michael’s Athy BC southpaw seeing off the challenge off Raven Chapman in a close featherweight encounter.

McComb showed his class to take all the three rounds against Mason Smith, the Belfast light-welter earning spontaneous rounds of applause from fans for his crisp and accurate shots in all three rounds.

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