Boxing

Boxing team bound for Birmingham Commonwealth Games unveiled

Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh will compete at his second Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer, while sister Michaela will hope it is third time lucky having brought home silver from Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

AFTER being held up while an appeal process played out, the wraps have finally been taken off the team bound for this summer’s Commonwealth Games – with 13 boxers in the mix for medals in Birmingham.

The team, a combination of youth and experience, is made up of eight male and five female fighters – with Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh and sister Michaela returning for another crack at gold after both returned from Australia with silver medals four years ago.

They are not the only ones either. Carly McNaul - a silver medallist in the Gold Coast - is the 50kg selection on the squad, while Damien Sullivan will box at super-heavyweight.

The 28-year-old west Belfast man, who competed at heavyweight four years ago, turned over to the paid ranks in the time between, boxing three times as a professional between 2019 and 2020, before deciding on a return to the amateur game.

Two-time Olympian Brendan Irvine did not put himself forward for selection assessments at the end of May, with the 54kg spot he would have been in the frame for instead taken by St Paul’s club-mate Dylan Eagleson.

A bronze medallist at the recent European U22 Championships, teenager Eagleson has also been drafted into the Irish elite squad competing at the European Championships in Armenia later this month.

Among the other relative newcomers to the senior international stage are talented Antrim light-fly Nicole Clyde and Holy Trinity’s Clepson dos Santos, who competes at 51kg.

Eireann Nugent, meanwhile, completes her return to boxing with a chance to impress at middleweight. The Immaculata powerhouse - granddaughter of renowned Mac trainer Gerry ‘Nugget’ Nugent - has been away from the ring for several years after showing promise as a youth, sparring the likes of Kellie Harrington in earlier days.

Now back in the mix, she received a walkover at last December’s Ulster Elite Championships, and impressed coaches at the Commonwealth selection assessments.

Tyrone’s Jude Gallagher - a former World youth bronze medallist and 2019 Irish flyweight champion - is selected at 57kg, and will hope to follow in the footsteps of former bantamweight king Kurt Walker, while reigning Irish lightweight champion JP Hale got the nod at 63.5kg.

Mullaghbawn’s Eugene McKeever is a force to be reckoned with at 67kg, having followed his maiden Irish elite title success last September with a third Ulster crown in-a-row months later.

Amy Broadhurst, from Dundalk but boxing out of the St Bronagh’s club in Rostrevor, will be a strong medal contender at 60kg, while Emerald’s Jake Tucker is a real prospect at middleweight and could enhance his burgeoning reputation in Birmingham.

“There are 13 boxers on the squad eight men, five women, all boxers are capable of medalling, colour yet to be decided,” said Ulster High Performance lead John Conlan, who was Team NI head coach at the Glasgow 2014 and Gold Coast 2018 Games.

“It’s good to get the squad in early enough to get them training together and get a solid platform of training going.”

The squad attended a sparring camp in Italy last week, and will take part in the Eindhoven Box Cup as it builds towards the Commonwealths.

Preparation will conclude with an international training camp in Belfast, with teams from Australia, India, New Zealand, GB, Canada, as well as several smaller nations.

Although he is familiar with the quality of squad’s more experienced members, Conlan is looking forward to seeing how the emerging crew fares in Birmingham.

“Dylan Eagleson and Clepson dos Santos are two very young boxers who have earned their right to go to name but a few,” he said, “it’s an exciting time and I can’t wait to see what these boxers will do.”

Today’s official announcement comes a fortnight after the Commonwealths team was originally due to be unveiled, with a number of appeals submitted to the Ulster Boxing Council forcing confirmation to be put on the long finger.

Alongside Carly McNaul, Caitlin Fryers was in the mix for selection at 50kg, with 2021 Ulster elite champion Jack McGivern and 2020 Ulster elite champion Daryl Clarke also in the frame for the 63.5kg spot that went to JP Hale.

Newry’s Irish U22 86kg champion Kane Tucker was under consideration at 80kg, and his omission came as a shock, given the amount of national titles he has racked up at various age grades through the years.

At 92+kg, meanwhile, Monkstown’s 2021 Ulster elite champion Charlie Boyle was also in the frame alongside Damien Sullivan.

However, upon consideration by an appeals panel appointed by the Ulster Council, all appeals were rejected.

TEAM

Female: Nicole Clyde (48kg, Antrim), Carly McNaul (50 kg, Ormeau Rd), Michaela Walsh (57, Emerald), Amy Broadhurst (60kg, St Bronagh's), Eireann Nugent (70kg, Immaculata)

Male: Clepson dos Santos (51kg, Holy Trinity), Dylan Eagleson (54kg, St Paul’s), Jude Gallagher (57kg, Two Castles), JP Hale (63.5kg, Star), Eugene McKeever (67kg, Holy Family, Drogheda), Aidan Walsh (71kg, Emerald), Jake Tucker (75kg, Emerald), Damien Sullivan (92+kg, Emerald)

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