JP Hale and Dominic Bradley can steal show on Irish Elite finals night
Amateur boxing: Irish Elite Championship finals
WHILE wars continue to be waged outside the ropes amid the ongoing political power struggle within Irish boxing, it is the boxers who will take centre stage at the National Stadium tonight.
A bitter row which has effectively split the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) continues to rumble on behind the scenes, the latest instalment of a sorry saga coming weeks after central council passed a vote of no confidence in the officer board of the Leinster and Connacht councils, as well as the Dublin County Board.
As a result, the majority of referees and judges nominated by those bodies – including Dermot McDermott, Ireland’s sole R&J representative at the Tokyo Olympics - have not been allowed to officiate at the Irish Elite Championships, which come to a conclusion tonight having got under way on September 17.
Given this competition kick-started the return of amateur boxing in the country for the first time in over 18 months, it is unfortunate that issues outside the ring have threatened to overshadow some top drawer action thus far.
Even though none of those who represented Ireland with such distinction in Tokyo during the summer have boxed at these championships, it has still provided a platform for some of the country’s up-and-coming talent to show they are ready to mix it at this level.
Among the most intriguing bouts tonight will see the all-Ulster showdown between Star’s JP Hale and Dominic Bradley, the Swatragh man now boxing out of Belfast’s Emerald club.
Having sparred countless times through the years, the pair know each other well – and two-time Ulster elite champion Hale hopes to keep his winning streak going, having convincingly accounted for the experienced Michael Stephens in last week’s semi-final.
“I feel like I’ve been boxing better that ever,” said the 20-year-old, who has moved up to 60kg after a growth spurt during the sport’s pandemic-enforced long lay-off.
“I wasn’t doing anything stupid, going in for a scrap, I was making it easier for myself, trying to get the win out of the way without risking anything. People think I just fight all the time, but I wanted to show I can box as well - that I’m able to mix it up.”
And while he will be the bigger man in the ring tonight, Hale is confident he can handle whatever Bradley throws his way.
“The spars we’ve had have been really good, really competitive, quite up and down,” he said.
“I just want to see what way he’s going to approach it, whether he changes it up, sometimes he goes front foot, other times he’ll try and feint and go back foot.
“This is bigger than the Ulster elites - I’ve been wanting this for ages now. Hopefully this is the year.”
For 22-year-old Bradley, it will be a case of carrying the momentum from his semi-final victory over Cookstown’s Teo Alin – and he isn’t daunted by giving away some size against Hale.
“There’s not much I don’t know about him and very little he doesn’t know about me,” he said.
“I went up to 63 for the Ulster elites last year, where I was very small at the weight, so I’m no stranger to fighting or sparring strong guys. It’ll be nothing new for me.
“JP’s one of those guys you could look at and think ‘he doesn’t do much different’, but what he does, he does extremely well. He’s very effective.
“But I’m comfortable with whatever. If he comes like he usually does, or if he tries something different, I can adapt.”
Another eye-catching encounter tonight sees Jack McGivern (St George’s) take on Athy’s Brandon McCarthy in the 63.5kg decider, while St John Bosco’s Padraig Downey and Letterkenny’s v Paddy McShane face off in another all-Ulster clash.
Immaculata’s Caitlin Fryers takes on Antrim’s Nicole Clyde for the 50kg crown, with Springtown’s Caoimhin Logue up against the experienced Ricky Nesbitt at 48kg.
St Canice’s middleweight Sean Donaghy faces a tough task against the highly-rated Gabriel Dossen, who took the Irish 75 kilo title in 2019, while Mullaghbawn’s Eugene McKeever – who boxes out of the Holy Family club in Drogheda – taking on Irish champion Wayne Kelly at 67kg.
Also on the bill, 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill continues his comeback when he goes toe-to-toe with DCU’s Faolain Rahill in the 86kg final.
Irish Elite Championship finals (5pm)
Live on TG4 YouTube
48kg: R Nesbitt (Holy Family, Drogheda) v C Logue (Springtown, Derry)
75kg: S Donaghy (St Canice’s, Derry) v G Dossen (Olympic, Galway)
63kg: E Woods (Corinthians, Dublin) v G Duffy (St Mary’s, Dublin)
66kg: K Attwell (Tobair Pheadair, Galway) v K Rock (Enniskerry, Wicklow)
81kg: N Fox (Rathkeale, Limerick) v B Doocey (Castlebar, Mayo)
86kg: F Rahill (DCU, Dublin) v D O’Neill (Paulstown, Kilkenny)
92kg: M Skalski (Athlone, Westmeath) v J Marley (Monkstown, Dublin)
92+kg: T Maughan (Cavan) v M Keenan (Rathkeale, Limerick)
Live coverage begins on TG4
48kg: S Sweeney (St Anne’s, Westport) v C Coughlin (Monkstown, Dublin)
51kg: P Downey (St John Bosco, Antrim) v P McShane (Letterkenny, Donegal)
50kg: C Fryers (Immaculata, Antrim) v N Clyde (Antrim)
52kg: N Early (Ryston, Kildare) v D Moorehouse (Enniskerry, Wicklow)
57kg: A Hession (Monivea, Galway) v S Purcell (Saviours Crystal, Waterford)
54kg: N Fay (Ballyboughal, Dublin) v S Hagightat-Jo (St Brigid’s, Edenderry)
60kg: JP Hale (Star, Antrim) v D Bradley (Emerald, Antrim)
57kg: J Lehane (DCU, Dublin) v K McLoughlin (Drimnagh, Dublin)
63.5kg: B McCarthy (Athy, Kildare) v J McGivern (St George’s, Antrim)
67kg: W Kelly (Ballynacargy, Westmeath) v E McKeever (Holy Family, Drogheda)
70kg: L O’Rourke (Castlerea, Roscommon) v E Igharo (Clann Naofa, Dundalk)
71kg: K Molloy (Oughterard, Galway) v L Maguire (Esker, Dublin)
80kg: T Hyde (St .Michael’s, Athy, Kildare) v K Cassidy (Saviours Crystal, Waterford)