Boxing

Seconds Out: Carly McNaul relishing young offenders role as big 2020 looms

Carly McNaul, who won the Irish title in February with victory over Niamh Early, plans to force her way into contention for the Olympic qualifier in London in March. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

SECURING her spot at the Olympic qualifiers in March may be top of Carly McNaul’s Christmas wishlist – but the east Belfast woman will have plenty more to keep her busy once the festive period is over.

The reigning Ulster champion has been at the Irish High Performance unit in Abbotstown for the past two weeks as competition hots up for places on the team bound for London from March 13-24.

And at the start of the new year, McNaul will also be involved in a programme - hosted by the Ulster Boxing Council and Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) in partnership with the Northern Ireland Prison Service - designed to teach young offenders the benefits of boxing and healthy living.

Along with two-time Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes and the recently retired Marc McCullough, McNaul will help deliver a six-week, non-contact boxing course for male and female prisoners at Hydebank.

“We had to go and basically sell it to them, make a pitch about how good it would be to get them into this programme and how much boxing can help you,” said the 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

“I was so nervous getting up to speak but once I started, I couldn’t stop talking about how boxing’s really helped me in my life, about how going to a boxing club gave me something to focus on and was a place to go to get away from bad choices and the wrong crowds.

“They seem to really want to do it; a few of them came up to me after and were asking all about it, there was a couple of them who had already boxed before so they’re really looking forward to it.”

With the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo now less than eight months away, reaching that stage is the 30-year-old’s main priority.

McNaul had entered last month’s Irish Elite Championships, where the intention was to defend the 51 kilo title she had won against Niamh Early back in February.

However, illness forced her out of the competition at the last minute, while misfortune also struck as she prepared for her fight on an Ireland v United Arab Emirates showcase in Dubai the following week.

“It’s been frustrating,” she said.

“I was all set for the Irish seniors but there was a bug going about, my wee lad had it, and the day before I was due to fight [against Early in the semi-final] I went to the gym and I was pure gray, so I couldn’t box.

“In Dubai then I was two fights away from getting in the ring when the doctor told me the other girl had pulled out. I was warming up, I had my wraps and all done so it was a nightmare.”

Although the Irish team got to do a bit of sight-seeing the following day, it was straight back to business the following week.

Cavan’s experienced Ceire Smith put herself into the box seat when she was a bit too slick for Early in last month’s flyweight final but, with selection decisions expected to be based upon performances in test sparring in Abbotstown, McNaul still has pklenty of time to force her way into the coaches’ thinking for London.

“I’m constantly competing because there’s me, Ceire Smith and Niamh Early at 51, so everything you’re doing, you’re doing it to the best you can possibly do it because everyone’s fighting for their place now.

“You have to give your all every day; it’s constant competition. Me and Niamh would be a similar style where Ceire’s a southpaw, a bit more of a boxer, so my main focus is keeping my shape.

“I’ve been down there the last two weeks, then the whole team’s away to Bulgaria at the end of January for a multi-nations competition; everything we do now is aimed towards the qualifiers.”

And while there will be a last chance saloon at the world qualifier in Paris in May, all the boxers want to put themselves in the frame for early qualification – with six flyweight spots up for grabs at the Copperbox Arena.

“Everybody wants to be going to the first qualifier because once your place is secured, that’s you. You’re guaranteed your spot.

“That’s the aim for all of us. Early qualification puts your mind at rest and lets you focus on preparing and getting yourself right for Tokyo.”

Conrad Cushanan (left) of All Saints and Ben McCourt (Townland) go toe-to-toe during their 80kg Antrim 6s final at Corpus Christi last week. McCourt went on to win what was widely considered the fight of the night, and the last one on the card. Picture by Mark Marlow

LEFT HOOKS

Unbeaten Lewis Crocker will face former British title challenger John Thain at the Ulster Hall on February 1.

The former Holy Trinity banger (10-0, 6 KOs) has looked superb in his career so far, but is now set for his toughest test when he takes on Thain (17-4, 1 KO) - and the duo are excited for the showdown.

“I’m very excited for the fight and I’m buzzing for it. I like being kept active so I’m looking forward to getting back out soon,” said Crocker.

“He’s a very experienced and top boxer and has fought for British and other significant titles so I’m expecting the toughest test of my career thus far.

“I love the Ulster Hall and the atmosphere is second to none, so I expect no different in February as the card is stacked.”

Thain added: “This is a great opportunity and it’s been a long time coming. Things can happen beyond your control for whatever reason. I didn’t intend to leave it this long but I’m looking forward now, not back, which hasn’t been easy through all the ups and downs.

“I wanted a fight that could excite me and be of interest to the boxing public. I want to be in great fights. I never expect an easy fight, so I’ll come prepared for whatever occurs.”

************

A TOP quality inter-county showdown will take place at Belfast’s Corpus Christi Boxing Club on Saturday afternoon when County Antrim go toe-to-toe with a Kildare select.

Sixteen bouts are scheduled to take place, with the flyweight clash between highly-rated St Paul’s ace Dylan Eagleson and European junior champion Mikes Donoghue particularly eye-catching. The action gets under way at 12.30pm.

B1 33kg: H Cochrane (Castle) v D Donoghue (St Michael’s, Athy); B1 35kg: J Blades (Cairn Lodge) v K Connolly (Santanna); B1 37kg: L Hunter (Midland) v C Potts (Santanna); B1 46kg: E Og Quinn (Phoenix) v D Doran (Curragh); G2 41kg: C Colley (Clonard) v M Carthy (St Michael’s, Athy); B2/3 37kg: A Scott (Glengormley) v K Moore (Santanna); B3 33kg: S Thompson (Spartans) v N Donoghue (St Michael’s, Athy); B3 38kg: E Hamill (Gleann) v N Carthy (St Michael’s, Athy); B3 43kg: O McCann (St Paul’s) v W Carthy (St Michael’s, Athy); B3 45kg: C Braniff (Holy Trinity) v S Ward (St Michael’s, Athy); B4 64kg: O Sloan (Star) v R Murphy (Curragh); B5 50kg: R Mongan (Holy Family) v J Donoghue (St Michael’s, Athy); B5 57kg: L Moore-Glass (BABA) v C Brennan (St Michael’s, Athy); G5/Y1 51kg: N Clyde (Antrim) v A Williamson (Curragh); Y1 52kg: D Eagleson (St Paul’s) v M Donoghue (St Michael’s, Athy); Y1 63kg: T McCann (St Paul’s) v L Micusa (Curragh)

************

COUNTY Antrim went down 5-2 to a strong Jonesy's team in Falkirk on Saturday night.

Rathfriland’s Donagh Keary – who was later named best away boxer - and Martin Doherty (Holy Trinity) got the wins for Antrim, with Townland’s Edward Collins unlucky.

Also on the team were Terry Hanna (Townland), Peter Devine (Oliver Plunkett), Michael Doherty (Glengormley) and Cori Madden (Star), with Liam Cunningham and Michael Corr the coaches and Glengormley’s Malachy Scott R&J.

************

HAVING worked alongside Belfast City Council and suicide awareness charities, members of St Paul's Boxing Club will help unveil the first wellbeing bench in the Falls Park on Thursday (10.30am).

Local schools will sing Christmas carols while there will be tea and scones at Falls Park pavilion.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Boxing