Colm Murphy and JP Hale serve up another barnstormer six days after Ulster Hall classic

JP Hale (left) and Colm Murphy went to war again at the National Stadium on Friday night, with the St George's man getting the nod from the judges this time around
JP Hale (left) and Colm Murphy went to war again at the National Stadium on Friday night, with the St George's man getting the nod from the judges this time around

AFTER six rounds split between rings in Belfast and Dublin that brought the crowd to its feet on both occasions, Colm Murphy and JP Hale finished up level with one win apiece from a pair of fights that marked their arrival among the senior ranks in some style.

On Ulster Elite finals night at the Ulster Hall, it was the marauding Hale who had his hand raised, dropping Murphy in the first before going on to get the nod on a split.

And in the 56kg final of Irish U22 Championships down at the National Stadium last Friday, the two teenagers picked up where they left off – trading leather at a ferocious pace for nine more absorbing minutes.

This time it was Murphy who took the decision, booking his spot on the Irish team that will head to the European U22 Championships in Russia in March.

For outsiders lucky enough to have found themselves looking in, it seems only right that the spoils should be shared by the time all was said and done.

And the sportsmanlike way both conducted themselves before and after both bouts should be a lesson to all aspiring young fighters who step through the ropes.

For six rounds they went to war as though sworn enemies, by the final bells they embraced, a friendship somehow strengthened by taking each other to such depths.

“It’s funny but I feel like these fights have made us bond more,” admitted Murphy, who turned 19 last week but had to put those celebrations on hold until after Friday’s showdown.

“There’s so much mutual respect – I couldn’t say anything bad about him. He probably puts in as much work as me and he deserves everything he gets too.”

“They’re two great lads, fair play to both of them having two fights like that in the space of six days,” said Liam Corr, one of Hale’s coaches at the Star club in north Belfast.

“[Olympic medallist] Hugh Russell actually came up to me at the Ulster Hall and said ‘you don’t see boxing like that any more’. They’re two brilliant lads and the mutual respect and humble attitudes whether they win or lose makes it all the better.”

Murphy admitted he watched back the footage of his Ulster final defeat “pretty much every day” in the lead-up to Friday’s rematch, looking for any clues or tells on a man with whom he has sparred countless rounds at Jordanstown’s High Performance unit.

That knockdown didn’t get any easier to watch but he focussed instead on how he regrouped and rallied in the remainder of the fight.

“I shook it off quick enough but it was a bit of a blow to the confidence. It was the first time that’s ever happened to me so I was a bit like ‘Jesus, how did that happen?’ But at least I know I can get up now!

“I wasn’t annoyed at the decision or anything because I knew that if you get put on your ass like that, it’s hard to win a fight, but I did feel like I showed grit getting up.

“I was silly running into the punch, but there were nerves. It was a big occasion, the Ulster Hall, a bigger crowd than in the National Stadium… I was gutted when it happened but what can you do?

“I knew this time I had to play to my strengths and be a bit more switched on, especially in the first round, and that’s what I did.”

Murphy also showed once again what a fantastic engine he possesses, still managing to put the required work in despite being in the first year of a quantity surveying degree at John Moore’s university in Liverpool.

“Running is a hobby for me,” he said.

“I really do enjoy it, so it’s natural for me to be good at cardio. It’s so important in a fight, for your mentality and your cardio to get you through it because those three rounds are gruelling.

“You don’t play about in there, you have to be as fit as you can.”

Both left the ring at the National Stadium bloodied, bruised and exhausted following their exertions.

And while their respective coaching teams and families may be happy enough to see Murphy and Hale kept apart for a while at least, fight fans are already licking their lips at the prospect of the next instalment.

Every good boxer needs a willing dance partner after all, and this has the potential to be a rivalry for the ages.

“That’s a good thing,” added Murphy.

“We’re bringing each other so much, we’re only getting better each time we fight each other. It means I have to keep on my toes too, I can’t let him get ahead of me; I have to be working flat out from here on too.”

Hale’s coach Corr is in full agreement.

“No matter what tactics we have in the corner, once you get punched in the face that changes again and for three rounds they knock lumps out of each other.

“It seems that if it keeps happening, it’s always going to be that way.”


Raphoe welterweight Dennis Lafferty and Peter O'Donnell
Raphoe welterweight Dennis Lafferty and Peter O'Donnell


THE Donegal-based Raphoe ABC will start its 31st year in operation with a trip to Birmingham this weekend for a tournament at Villa Park.

Over 600 tickets have already been snapped up for Friday night’s action in the Holte Suite. World and European Youth bronze medallist Jude Gallagher from Two Castles is among the guest punchers heading across the Irish Sea.

The Newtownstewart flyweight is joined by club-mate Tiarnan Mayse, fellow Tyrone punchers Craig Bigger and Paul Hanna.

Errigal’s Dominic Bradley, a six-time Irish champion, and Thomas Brolly are in action as is the explosive Bryan McNamee from neighbouring Convoy ABC.

Long-serving Raphoe welter Dennis Lafferty will lead the Raphoe ABC contingent and will face former British youth kingpin Bradley Ferrie.

The opposition comes in the form of boxers from the Paddy Brennan Boxing Academy and the Second City Boxing Club, who are under the watch of Paddy Farrell.

“The Raphoe club has built up a strong relationship with the two clubs in Birmingham,” says Raphoe ABC chairman Peter O’Donnell, the well-known ringside announcer.

“A Birmingham selection came over to Donegal and we won nine bouts to four so the two Paddys will be out to reverse last year’s result, I’m sure.”

Raphoe ABC celebrated their 30th anniversary in style last year as welterweight Leah Gallen won a European junior bronze medal – the club’s first European medal.

Gallen, who lost out to Ellouise Challenger when boxing for Ireland against England at the weekend in Bristol, will make the trip to cheer on her team-mates, including former Irish champion Cody Lafferty.

Recently crowned Ulster 9 county champions Liam McMonagle and Eoin McGarrell are slated for bouts, while Liam Crawford and Ruairi McGlinchey are also on board.

Cody Lafferty and Leah Gallen
Cody Lafferty and Leah Gallen