IRISH coach Billy McClean has tipped up-and-coming Ulster pair Jude Gallagher and Caitlin Fryers to shine at the World Youth Championships in Hungary.
The team is in the final week of training camp at their Abbotstown base before jetting off to Budapest on Saturday, with the championships running from August 20-31.
“The camp’s going really well,” said west Belfast man McClean, who is head coach of the junior/youth male teams at Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA).
“We’ve been working with the elites and with Zaur Antia, which is always a good thing, so the team is getting into tip-top shape and they’re in good form.
“These kids have come through schoolboys, schoolgirls, the junior development programmes, so they’re pretty experienced at international level. It’s as good a team as we’ve ever had heading out to a world championships.
“The team is prepared physically and mentally for all the trials and tribulations that a championship like this can throw up. They’ve had some tremendous training, tremendous sparring working with the elites.
“At this stage we’re in as good a position as we can be. Everybody’s in a good place and we’re looking forward to seeing how we get on against the best nations in the world.”
Leading the charge will be two of the top talents in Ulster.
Jude Gallagher caught the eye en route to a bronze medal at the European Championships in Italy back in April, and earlier this month landed his ninth Irish title – and third of the season - when he defeated Adam Hession in the national U18 final.
And it is clear from talking to McClean that the Two Castles light-fly is well regarded at the High Performance centre in Dublin.
“Jude’s a talent, only 16 years of age,” said McClean of the Tyrone teenager.
“He’s a youth international boxer with a host of titles behind him so he’s got tremendous potential, especially when you think he will still be a youth boxer next year.
“Jude is definitely one we’re looking at for long-term. The four male boxers competing at the worlds are all still at youth level next year, and they are very much on our radar in terms of going on to win Irish senior titles and moving into the elite bracket.
“Jude is part of the growing pool of talent we are looking at to replaces the Paddy Barnes’s, the Michael Conlans, Steven Donnellys, Sean McCombs, people like that who have now moved on to the professional ranks.”
The carrot at the end of the stick is a place alongside the already-qualified Dean Clancy and Lauren Kelly at November’s Youth Olympic Games in Argentina.
And Fryers, from the Immaculata club in Belfast, is seen as a major medal hope heading out to Hungary, having taken home bronze from last year’s World Youth Championships in India.
“Caitlin’s a little star who trains extremely hard – she’s extremely dedicated, one of the hardest trainers we have in the programme at the minute,” added McClean.
“Already she has a wealth of international experience and the thing about Caitlin is she won’t be afraid of anybody in these World championships, no matter who she gets.
“She’s very focused, she’s been in the system for a number of years now, and she’s definitely a potential medallist. We’re absolutely delighted with her.”
With so many experienced campaigners having moved on since the last Olympic Games in Rio, following a decade of unprecedented success on the international stage, the opportunity is there for future stars to emerge.
McClean has seen at first hand the talent that is coming through the ranks, including those bound for Budapest this weekend, and predicted a bright future for Irish boxing.
“The youth development programme has always shone through, and continues to shine.
“It’s a programme that the boxing council are very supportive of, especially the president Dominic O’Rourke who is always looking around to see where we’re going in the development of our young boxers.
“A lot of hard work is going into the underage boxing because we are in a different cycle now. We are building for the future and it may not necessarily be Tokyo, but the following Olympics in Paris.
“A lot of these kids could be on the radar if they continue to develop as they are.”
49kg: J Gallagher (Two Castles); 52kg: D Clancy (Ballinacarrow); 56kg: B McCarthy (St Michael’s, Athy); 60kg: A Higgins (Fr Horgan’s); 64kg: C Walsh (Riverstown); 69kg: E Donovan (OLOL)
48kg: D Moorhouse (Enniskerry); 51kg: C Fryers (Immaculata); 54kg: M Geraghty (Baldoyle); 57kg: D Rooney (Sean McDermott’s); 75kg: L Kelly (St Brigid’s, Edenderry)
Team managers: Stephen Connolly and Tara Mari Robins; Head coach: Billy McClean; Coaches: Michael Carruth, Michael Mongan, Anita Just; Physio: David Cooke.
QUINN-McCONNELL CLASH COULD STEAL THE SHOW IN DUBLIN
AN all-Ulster clash between Eoghan Quinn, of the St John’s club in Derry, and Holy Trinity pocket rocket John McConnell looks the pick of the action at the National Stadium on Friday night.
The pair face off in the flyweight semi-final of the National Cadet Championships, with McConnell defeating Kieran Tyrell-McPartlan while Quinn received a bye to reach this stage.
Quinn got the nod when he met McConnell in the Junior 1 final back in March, coming out on the right side of a 3-2 split decision in that 50kg decider, so another intriguing bout awaits.
Elsewhere Dylan Eagleson, of the St Paul’s club in Belfast, takes on Gorey’s Jim Moorehouse at 44kg. Meanwhile Eagleson’s club-mate, Thomas McCann, has a quarter-final date with James Treacy (Glasnevin) at 57kg.
There is further Ulster interest in the last eight of that weight division, with Gleann’s Martin Brady going in with Ciaran Delaney of Glasnevin.
East Down’s Oisin Mulholland is up against Michael McDonagh (St Michael’s) in the 46kg semi-final while at 54kg, Lisburn’s Thomas Orr takes on Patrick Sweeney of Olympic.
Shane O’Gorman (St Malachy’s) faces Liam Walsh (Sliabh Luachra) in the lightweight semi-final.
Talented Tyrone twins Tiarnan and Alannah Mayse, from the Two Castles club in Newtownstewart, are in action too. Tiarnan is paired with Eoghan Lavin in his 70kg semi, while Alannah meets Saoirse Morrissey (Blarney) at 46kg.
In the same division, Raphoe’s Cody Lafferty meets Breda Quilligan (Rathkeale) while at flyweight, Antrim’s Nicole Clyde pits her wits again Niamh Fay of Swords. Another Raphoe boxer, Leah Gallen, faces Drimnagh’s Abi Sutton at 66kg.
All the Cadet finals take place on Saturday morning, with the action getting under at 11am.