Boxing

Seconds Out: All-Ireland title lifts mood in Gilford after tough time

Despite taking up boxing just eight months ago, Cassie Henderson - daughter of former Linfield and Armagh GAA ace Ryan - won her first All-Ireland title on Friday night
Neil Loughran

IT has been a tumultuous month for all involved with Gilford Boxing Club – but welcoming Cassie Henderson home as All-Ireland champion has helped put smiles on faces at a difficult time.

Henderson claimed the 60kg crown at the National Junior Cadet Championships in Dublin on Friday night, proving too strong for Crumlin’s Niamh Smith in the final.

Club-mate Jamie Ritchie had also been due to box on Friday night but suffered a bleed on the brain earlier this month that saw him undergo emergency surgery.

Video messages offering support have come in from the likes of pro star Michael Conlan, former world featherweight champion Lee Selby and Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kristina McCafferty-O’Hara as the 13-year-old continues along the road to recovery.

“Everybody at the club is thinking about Jamie all the time at the minute, and just hoping everything turns out okay for him because he’s a great kid,” said Bernard McComiskey, Gilford coach and Jamie’s uncle.

“He was due to box in the 60 kilo final and I don’t reckon he would’ve been too far away, but when something like this happens it puts everything in perspective.

“He won’t be able to box again, he knows that, but the club has bought him a pair of gloves and a set of pads and we’ve asked him to help out on the coaching side of things.”

Cassie Henderson’s success, just eight months after first lacing up gloves, has helped lift the mood around the club, however.

The Lurgan teenager - daughter of former Linfield and Armagh GAA player Ryan Henderson - is a talented sportswoman across the board, following in her father’s footsteps with the county and Clann Eireann, while she is currently on the books of Irish League heavyweights Glentoran.

And Henderson has shown a natural aptitude for boxing too, culminating in Friday’s All-Ireland triumph, which puts her in pole position for a spot on the Irish team bound for the European championships, which take place in Turkey in August.

“Cassie’s win really brought a huge buzz to the place, especially with everything that’s going on,” said McComiskey, whose daughter Clodagh represented an Irish elite select in Italy 10 days ago.

“She only started eight months ago - walked in through the door one night, I took her on the pads and I shouted over to one of the others boys ‘look at this here’. Everybody stopped and watched.

“She just took to it straight away; a complete natural. All she needs is a bit of fine-tuning but Cassie’s one of the best prospects I’ve ever seen. She’s so strong, aggressive and her boxing skills are improving all the time.

“She’s only had four fights so far, all in the Stadium, and she beat two Irish champions on the way to this title, one who was a year older than her. It’s been brilliant, honestly - a real fairytale story.”

Henderson wasn’t the only Ulster boxer to come up the road as a newly-crowned champion over the weekend either, with a further five having their hand raised the famous venue.

Immaculata duo Jude O’Reilly and Lee Largey-Snodden, Lochlainn Beagan (Sean Doran’s), Jordie Cooke (Gleann) and Daithi McNamee (Two Castles) all came up trumps.

Following Henderson’s success on Friday night, McNamee scored a unanimous win over Cove’s David Quigley in the 29kg final on Saturday, with the Mac pair getting the ball rolling as soon as the action started on Sunday.

O’Reilly was a unanimous winner over Olympic, Limerick’s Calvin Stokes in the 31kg final, with Largey-Snodden edging an all-Ulster encounter in the 33kg decider when he got the better of Conal Dunlop (St Paul’s).

Lochlainn Beagan, from the Sean Doran’s club in Keady took a 3-2 split decision win over Riverstown’s Liam Waters at 42kg, while Gleann’s Jordie Cooke was crowned 90kg king after an impressive 5-0 win against Chulainn McDonnell (Whitechurch).

And the west Belfast club dedicated Cooke’s victory to coach Tricia Magennis, who passed away earlier this month.

“Five national titles won since December, so happy with what the future holds for all our kids,” read a statement on the Gleann Facebook page.

“This win and title is dedicated to the woman we lost in our club, Tricia Magennis - the mother of our club.”

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Coaches Mark Kelly, Dee Jardine, Robert Fisher and Dafydd Carlin with the Holy Trinity squad before a recent show at Banbridge Boxing Club

TRINITY BOXERS AIM TO BOWL OVER OPPOSITION

THE Falls Bowling Club in Andersonstown plays hosts to a cracking Holy Trinity end-of-season boxing and annual awards event on Thursday (doors open 7.30pm).

A strong squad from the Oakleaf club in Derry provide the bulk of the opposition with boxers from Dukes Boxing Gym in Omagh, Castle ABC in Whitehead and the Evolution club in Carrickfergus also on the 18-bout exhibition bill.

Some excellent headline bouts are in store for Belfast fight fans including Trinity star and reigning Ulster champ Kyle Smith up against Bernie Stokes (Oakleaf), in a repeat of last month’s absorbing Ulster nine county championships final.

Meanwhile, Holy Trinity’s Irish champion Summer Fleming takes on Irish champion and European medallist Carleigh Irvine (Oakleaf) in what should be a stormer, while another couple of Ulster champions - Johnny Doherty and Sean Devenney (Oakleaf) - will also face off.

“There’s some real quality contests on the bill, a wide range of talented, skilful young boxers who’ll be making a name in the senior grades in the coming years,” said Trinity coach Michael Hawkins jr.

“This is our 50th anniversary year, and it’s an exciting time for the club. These kids are the future so please come along and show your support.

“It’s also our annual awards night, so it’s a very special night for us. Many great Trinity boxers have received these awards down the years and our present squad are more than capable in following in their footsteps.”

SCHEDULE

Kyle Smith v Bernie Stokes (Oakleaf)

Jude Molyneaux v Adam Mclvor (Oakleaf)

Johnny Doherty v Sean Devenney (Oakleaf)

Carlo Braniff v Jack Harkin (Oakleaf)

Dylan Greer v Brendan OHagan (Oakleaf)

Summer Fleming v Carleigh Irving (Oakleaf)

James Kelly v Sean Duke (Dukes BG)

Conor Braniff v Rhys Hall (Holy Trinity)

Cormac Curley v Matthew McDonagh (Dukes BG)

Cormac Fegan v Carra McHugh (Oakleaf)

Aleesha Deronja v Eabha Kelly (Oakleaf)

Lee Jardine v Tom McDaid (Oakleaf)

Jake Brady v Ruairi Holmes (Oakleaf)

Mark Dawson v Shea Kelly (Oakleaf)

Tiernan Morris v Lucas Mclvor (Oakleaf)

Jimmy Doherty v Eddie Reilly (Oakleaf)

Harry Kernaghan (Castle) v Martin Ward/Joshua Cairns (Oakleaf)

Tom Doherty v Oscar McFadden (Evolution)

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Boxing