Seconds Out: Aidan Walsh happy to have target on back in Birmingham
HE may have come in under the radar four years ago – but Aidan Walsh will be a marked man when he steps between the ropes at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Although he had taken home gold from the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games, Walsh was still in the early stages of his elite career when his place on the team bound for Australia’s Gold Coast was secured.
There, welterweight Walsh’s quick feet and elusive counter-punching skills led him all the way to the final, where he had to settle for silver after coming up short against England’s Pat McCormack.
That experience, though, was added to his armoury for the years ahead. Next time he met McCormack, at the World Elite Championships 18 months after that April 2018 showdown, there was very little between them – McCormack narrowly edging home via split decision.
The pair had been due to meet again in the semi-final of the Olympic Games last summer, until an ankle injury sustained while celebrating last eight victory over Mervin Clair cruelly ended Walsh’s campaign.
Now, though, with that bronze medal from Tokyo in his back pocket, and with McCormack having since turned over to the professional ranks, Walsh looks to be leading the pack at 71kg.
But the 25-year-old insists he doesn’t feel any extra pressure, and is instead embracing being at another big Games with sister Michaela.
“You always want to do your best.
“Like anything in life, if you do that you can’t ask much more. After getting silver at the last Commonwealth Games, if somebody had said I’d still been here in four years, and would have gone to the Olympics in between, I’d have taken that.
“It’s amazing to be here, and again to be doing it alongside Michaela is brilliant. This team was in Dublin and Italy training together, then up in Jordanstown, and the young ones coming through, you can see they’re all immensely talented.
“I’m really excited to see everybody do well.”
After a long lay-off following surgery on both ankles last year, as well as on a troublesome hand injury, Walsh made his return to the ring at the Golden Gloves tournament in Romania back in April.
And, just as he sought advice from the likes of Michaela and two-time Olympian Brendan Irvine on his own rise through the ranks, Walsh - – who has been named joint team captain alongside Carly McNaul - will be all ears if any younger members of the team should seek his counsel.
“I was very lucky that way because Michaela was a few years ahead of me. So she was always the Antrim champion first, Ulster champion, Irish champion, Commonwealth Games silver medallist before me…
“Even the Olympics, she qualified before me - even if it was only an hour! But she always walked the course before me and, coming here now, it has done me good.
“Going to the last Commonwealths, I was asking her questions all the time, about how to deal with the pressure. The same with Brendy Irvine - he always had that experience, he’d been to everything by the time I was on the team because he was a professional in everything he did.
“When I first went to Dublin I would’ve been sharing a room with Brendy, he was always somebody I looked up to and he would’ve been giving advice all the time. Having people like that, they let you know what to expect.
“Hopefully now I can do the same.”
SAINTS BRING HOME THE BACON AT MONKSTOWN BOX CUP
SAINTS Boxing Club made a splash at their first-ever Monkstown Box Cup – coming back up the road with two gold medals and a bronze.
Drawing quality boxers from across Ireland and beyond, the Monkstown competition is an international class event, but the Twinbrook club showed they were fit to mix it in that company after some hugely impressive performances at the weekend.
First up on Friday afternoon was Noah Bacon, and in his semi-final he showed why he is the current Antrim champion with a great display of pressure boxing. Unfortunately, he came out on the wrong side of a 2-1 split decision.
Noah’s team mates Niall Hall and Kane Bacon boxed superbly in their last four contests to advance into Sunday’s finals. Both were pitted against tough opponents from top class Irish clubs, but it was the Saints boys who had their hands raised – landing gold medals with slick displays.
The travelling Saints contingent were clearly delighted with all their boxers’ performances and, having made such a successful bow at the Box Cup, plans are already afoot to return with a bigger team in 2023.
BOXING STARS OF THE FUTURE BOWL OVER FANS
SOME of the senior stars of the future were on show last Thursday as the Falls Bowling Club in Andersonstown played host to a cracking Holy Trinity end-of-season boxing and annual awards event.
A strong squad from the renowned Oakleaf club in Derry provided the bulk of the opposition, with boxers from Duke’s Gym in Omagh, Castle BC in Whitehead and the famous Immaculata also featuring on the 18-bout exhibition bill.
Trinity star and reigning Ulster champ Kyle Smith took on rival Bernie Stokes (Oakleaf), in a cracking repeat of last month’s Ulster Nine County Championships final.
“It was a fantastic night at Falls Bowling Club for our annual awards event,” said Holy Trinity coach Michael Hawkins jr.
“A massive thanks to Oakleaf Boxing Club for travelling down from Derry. Also, thanks to Dukes BG, Castle BC and the Immaculata for taking part too”
Former Trinity star, now leading referee/judge Joe Lowe, kept a watchful eye on the proceedings along with Oakleaf stalwart Eugene O’Kane.
“A massive thanks also to our paramedic, Jacqueline O’Neill, and our MC for the evening, our former senior champion Billy McClean,” added Hawkins.
“All the boxers did their clubs proud. Ulster boxing is looking very strong for the future.’’
The Holy Trinity Annual Award winners were - Bridie Hawkins Memorial Cup, Best Boy Boxer: Tony Crickard; Alex Maskey Shield, Senior Boxer of the Year: Clepson dos Santos; Mona McConnell Memorial Award, Most Committed Boxer: Logan Rice; Joe Kelly Memorial Cup, Most Improved Boxer: Cormac Curley; Sammy Hyland Perpetual Cup, Most Dedicated Boxer: Conor Braniff; Father Matt Wallace Trophy, Best Junior Boxer: Summer Fleming