Ulster quartet out to follow in famous footsteps at Finnish tournament

Jude Gallagher produced some stellar performances on the way to winning Commonwealth Games gold, and will box for the first time since Birmingham at this weekend's Tammer tournament in Finland. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

THE prestigious Tammer tournament has hosted stellar names like Oscar de la Hoya and Joe Joyce through the years – and a four-strong Ulster team hope to write their names into the tournament’s history this weekend.

It is something of a mini-Commonwealth Games reunion as gold medallist Jude Gallagher and team-mates JP Hale, Eugene McKeever and Jake Tucker travel to Finland tomorrow with coaches Damian Kennedy and JP Delaney. The action runs from Friday until Sunday.

From Gallagher’s perspective, the Newtownstewart featherweight will want to pick up where he left off in Birmingham after emerging as one of the stars of the competition.

And Kennedy insists the success of Gallagher and fellow Commonwealth gold medallist Dylan Eagleson is a reflection of the depth of talent that continues to come through the ranks in Ulster.

“Jude’s always been a very focused young man,” said the Toome man.

“I remember having him in a Black Forest Cup team years ago, and you could see then he knows exactly what he wants when it comes to boxing. He listens to exactly what you’re telling him, he tries different things.

“That was one of the success stories of the Commonwealth Games – the emergence of the youth, like Jude and Dylan, who really announced themselves on the international stage.

“We’ve always had huge talent within Ulster. Look at the last Olympic Games, there was four representatives from Ulster on the Ireland team. A lot of credit goes to the clubs and the club coaches who have these guys well schooled from 11 years of age, and then they come into our youth and junior system.

“They produce the diamonds and we polish them - put them into that international system, expose them to different styles and different training programmes, a High Performance environment.

“That’s why the youth and junior programme is crucial to the development of Ulster boxing. That conveyor belt system is working so well.”

For Star light-welter Hale, Mullaghbawn’s McKeever and middleweight Tucker, this weekend’s tournament in Tampere will be their time stepping between the ropes since bowing out before the Commonwealth Games medal stages.

And Kennedy was quick to praise that trio’s attitude since suffering disappointment in Birmingham.

“They came home, had a couple of weeks off, then rejoined us for collective training.

“Clepson [dos Santos], Jake, Eugene and JP, they haven’t missed a day’s training since we opened up again. They’re really focused, they used the experience of the Commonwealth Games to rejuvenate themselves, give them the kick up the backside that they needed, and they’re all heading in the right direction.

“Everything’s learning, everything’s experience and for all of them their main goal is the Olympics. Winning the nationals, getting on the Irish team then looking at Olympic qualification, so they’re using everything they can between now and then to help them prepare for the national championships.”

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association recently confirmed that the Irish Elite Championships will get under way on January 12 2023, with finals night taking place on January 21.

All eyes will be on that Saturday night, as the country’s top operators bid to force their way into the Irish team ahead of next June’s European Games in Poland, which offers a first opportunity to secure qualification for the Paris 2023 Olympics.

A weight class reshuffle since Tokyo 2020 ensures big decisions lie ahead, particularly at some of the female weights such as 60kg, where Olympic champion Kellie Harrington and Amy Broadhurst could go toe-to-toe.

Even if Broadhurst opts to pursue qualification at 66kg, she could come up against the likes of fellow world champion Lisa O’Rourke, who is more likely to come down from 70kg rather than go up to middleweight and challenge sister Aoife.

Several men’s weights offer similar intrigue, with the upcoming Irish elites not to be missed.

“It has the potential to be one of the most exciting Irish elites in years,” said Kennedy, “hopefully everybody enters and we see the cream rise to the top.

“We have the most successful female team in Europe at the minute, and the weight changes for the Olympics make it that extra bit more exciting as well. It’s a great problem to have when it comes to the selection of these teams.”


The Irish team have been training away in Dublin ahead of the World Championships in Spain



AFTER all the ‘will they, won’t they’ talk about whether Ireland would be represented at the World Youth Championships, the team will set off for Spain on Saturday with medals on their mind.

Less than a month ago it looked as though Ireland would not send a team after the International Boxing Association (IBA) overturned the suspension of Russia and Belarus, therefore allowing them back into major competitions.

Ireland adopted the same stance as other countries belonging to the 'Common Cause Alliance' and, as a result, the young boxers preparing for the Worlds – which take place in La Nucia from November 14-26 - were informed by the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) that a team would not be sent.

However, the ground shifted once more when the Spanish government banned Russian and Belarussian athletes from competing, and the 22-strong Irish team has been preparing ever since.

That includes Townland's Conor McCrory, who goes at 63.5kg, and Letterkenny 51kg fighter Jack Harkin, who boxes out of the Oakleaf club in Derry, while Liam Cunningham of Saints Boxing Club is joined by Michael Mongan and Lynne McEnery on the coaching side of the operation.

“Ireland has a strong track record at the World Youth Championships and this team has the capacity to build on that heritage,” said IABA president Gerry O’Mahony, who will be joint team manager in Spain alongside Bernadette Lannon.

“We understand the deep distress caused by our decision to suspend participation in the competition on the basis of IBA’s re-admittance of Russian and Belarussian athletes.

“We also understand why our decision has little currency with boxers and coaches in the midst of the extraordinary sacrifices made to become athletes capable of contesting at world level.

“The natural goal for a world class boxer is the Olympics - the IBA’s comportment, decision-making and governance issues mean that boxing’s long-term future at the Olympics, and by default, the prospect of our World Youths boxers competing at the Olympics, is deeply uncertain.

“The Common Cause Alliance seeks reform to enable that certainty.”



48kg: P Joyce (Olympic, Westmeath); 51kg: J Harkin (Oakleaf); 54kg: G Ryan (Ratoath); 57kg: R Farrelly (Avona); 60kg: L McEvoy (Avona); 63.5kg: C McCrory (Townland); 67kg: J Donovan (OLOL); 71kg: B Flood (Cabra); 75kg: TJ King (Phoenix); 80kg: R Murphy (Neilstown); 86kg: N Ojo (Esker); 92kg: D McDonagh (Olympic); 92kg+: B Cawley (St David’s)


48kg: G McGovern (Setanta); 50kg: C Kinsella (St Anthony’s/St Pat’s); 52kg: E Lambe (Setanta); 54kg: S Donoghue (Templemore); 57kg: R Kavanagh (Mulhuddart); 60kg: Y Meredith (Corinthians); 63kg: R Collins (Baldoyle); 66kg: G Mongan (Whitechurch); 70kg: L Moran (St Anne’s); 81kg: D Tinnelly (Clann Naofa); 81+kg: C D’Arcy (Tobar Pheadair)