Seconds Out: Coach tips Dylan Eagleson to go far after Irish U22 success
NEWLY-CROWNED Irish U22 champion Dylan Eagleson has the potential to go far in the amateur game, according to club coach Ralph McKay.
The 19-year-old produced an accomplished display at the National Stadium on Saturday to claim the national 54kg title, proving too strong and skilful for Michael Stokes of St Michael’s, Athy.
Eagleson has long been earmarked for a big future in the fight game, and represented Ireland at the European Youth Championships in Romania three years ago.
With amateur boxing largely stalled for the majority of the past two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bangor teenager has had to wait for a return to the international arena.
And St Paul’s coach McKay hopes Eagleson can show what he is capable of once more at next month’s European U22 championships, which take place in Croatia from March 11-24.
“His performance at the weekend was outstanding, he was the talk of the stadium,” said McKay, who also oversaw the rise of two-time Olympian Brendan Irvine at the west Belfast club.
“Since lockdown he’s been outstanding, and in terms of his ability, everybody could see the quality he has. He’s got a strong character as well, good discipline, the combinations he was throwing the other day, the power… he was awesome.
“Honestly, Dylan has so much going for him. Because of Covid, when he was a youth boxer, he missed an important part of his development, the senior/intermediate side of it before you jump up into elite.
“He’s now an elite boxer but we want to try and progress him properly, get him good sparring and bring him in that way. We worked hard all over Christmas so he was ready to go for these championships.
“He’s sparring elite boxers and doing well, so he’s well able for that level. The last two years were a struggle for him at times but we kept him focused and tried to make him believe that there was an end-game to all this.
“Hopefully now we’ll get the chance to see the very best of him.”
And Eagleson wasn’t the only Ulster winner to come back up the road after the conclusion of the U18 and U22 championships at the weekend.
Star prospect Louis Rooney – younger cousin of Irish elite lightweight champion JP Hale - got the ball rolling on Friday night when he claimed the 46kg U18 crown, defeating Banbridge’s Dylan Foy in an all-Ulster final.
“Louis is a great kid, and he’s been training alongside JP since the end of last year,” said Liam Corr, a coach at the north Belfast club.
“He was with us for years then left to go and play football, same as JP, but now he’s back and showing what he’s capable of. He had a bumpy start when he came back to boxing but kept at it, and that’s his second Irish title now.
“Hopefully bigger and better things lie ahead.”
Immaculata’s talented Karl Reilly took the U18 44kg crown on a walkover, while Antrim’s Nicole Clyde kept that winning streak going on Saturday, beating Smithfield’s Ciara Walsh to win the U22 48kg decider.
Catching the eye too was Holy Trinity’s Clepson dos Santos, who showcased his skills en route to a unanimous victory over Cian O’Toole (St David’s).
“Clepson boxed very well,” said Holy Trinity coach Michael Hawkins sr.
“We know he’s just stepping up to that level but he boxed according to plan across the three rounds, and did what he had to do.
“That puts Clepson in pole position for the European U22s, and he’s relishing the prospect of being selected by the high performance for that tournament.
“We also know the Ulster Council have previously promised to look after the 2003 boxers, like Clepson, and I’m sure they’ll be as good as their word.”
It was bombs away at 86 kilos, meanwhile, where Kane Tucker won his 10th Irish title after an all-action victory over Jason Myers.
The Titans man barely took a backward step but Tucker timed his attacks brilliantly to have his hand raised.
There were also walkover wins for St John Bosco’s Padraig Downey (48kg), Immaculata’s Caitlin Fryers (50kg) and Clonard’s Ben Ferran (67kg).
PLENTY TO CELEBRATE FOR ST JOHN BOSCO
ST John Bosco had plenty to celebrate this week after long-awaited refurbishment work finally got under way at the west Belfast club.
Since 2012 the Bosco have been waiting for the commencement of a major upgrade of their Conway Mill gym. Indeed, the £3.2million Belfast Boxing Strategy was launched at the club by then Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.
And after hitting several stumbling blocks through that decade, coach Gerard McCafferty is relieved to see the ball start rolling.
“At long last - and it was a funny coincidence because the work actually started on the 31st of January, the feast day of St John Bosco,” said McCafferty.
“The job has gone out to tender three times… there just always seemed to some sort of a hiccup stopping it getting under way.
“It’s going to take four or five months before completion, and we’ve had to relocate elsewhere in Conway Mill, which isn’t ideal, but at least things are moving in the right direction. Hopefully it’s a case of short-term pain for long-term gain.”
Elsewhere, McCafferty’s wife – 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kristina O’Hara-McCafferty – picked up an award for the best professional debut of 2021 after opening up her pro career in impressive fashion last November.
She is hoping to be out again in mid-April, while a potential Irish title fight with Waterford’s Kate Radomska has mooted further down the line.
Also, Bosco light-fly Padraig Downey took the Irish U22 title on a walkover at the National Stadium on Saturday.
Having narrowly lost out in Irish and Ulster elite finals last year, McCafferty is predicting a bright future for the 19-year-old.
“Those fights were both very, very close decisions.
“Padraig’s been with us 10 years now, and he just loves boxing. He’s turning into a very strong light-fly, so we’re hoping he’ll get sent to the U22s in March. He deserves a chance.”