Holy Trinity out to finish anniversary year with a flourish at Ulster elites
Boxing: Ulster Elite Championships
IT has already been a year to remember for Holy Trinity, and experienced coach Michael Hawkins hopes they can finish 2022 with a flourish at the Ulster Elite Championships.
The west Belfast club had a series of events to mark its 50th anniversary during recent months, and have three boxers bidding for Ulster final places when they step between the ropes at the Dockers Club tonight.
Clepson dos Santos, Teo Alin and Jon McConnell are in semi-final action, with talented prospect Summer Fleming hoping to get the ball rolling in her Ulster 9 county final against Armagh’s Aoife Dougan.
“We’re always there, always looking for titles, and there will be times you don’t get them, we know that,” said Hawkins.
“We had seven Ulster champions last week, we have Summer Fleming hoping to make that eight, and we had eight last year at the same level. They’re coming through, so next year and the year after you’ll see a rise in our boxers.”
And while the future looks bright, the current crop certainly have the potential to pack a punch at these championships too.
Banbridge flyweight Dos Santos, who doesn’t turn 19 until later this month, has already crammed plenty of experience beneath his belt this year after representing Team NI at August’s Commonwealth Games.
The youngest member of the squad in Birmingham, his slick skills impressed in an opening night victory over tough Ghanaian Yaw Samuel Addo – Dos Santos’s first fight in elite company – before just falling missing out on a medal against Welshman Jake Dodd.
Dos Santos – who faces Bangor Abbey’s James Stevenson tonight, with Derry native Blaine Dobbins awaiting the winner in the Guildhall on December 15 - is still developing physically, but Hawkins insists the improvements across the past 12 months are clear to see.
“Clepson is very settled, he seems to have matured a lot and he’s enjoying his boxing.
“He never misses a session with the High Performance, and he’s been in the gym four nights a week leading up to this and doing everything outside of that. His diet and nutrition is under control, and he is the man at the minute.
“Some people mature very quickly. I always go back to Damien Fryers and Barry McGuigan, they were 17, 18 years old but they were like fully grown men. The maturity and strength was there from very young, where for others it takes that bit longer.
“But he’s certainly improving all of that.”
Lightweight Alin - who lost out to eventual Ulster champion Dominic Bradley in last year’s semi-final - joined Holy Trinity at the start of the summer, and is showing improvement going into his clash with Erne’s Rhys Owens.
“Teo’s travelling up every night from Cookstown, and he’s getting plenty of quality sparring,” said Hawkins.
“He definitely has sharpened up, but the championships will tell. I’d like to have got him a couple more fights because we had a good plan in place the past six months and unfortunately different things fell through for various reasons.
“But in terms of the sparring within our own club, he’s class. He’s enjoying every bit of that.”
In an eye-catching semi-final bout, Jon McConnell takes on Holy Family’s Shane McClorey – with Swatragh’s Eoghan Quinn awaiting the winner in Derry.
McConnell has campaigned at 57kg, 60kg and 63.5kg in recent years but, as he continues to sprout upwards, and with an eye on the Olympic weights for Paris 2024, has now jumped up to 71kg.
“The 63.5 was too much,” said Hawkins, “he just grew out of it.
“He’s still growing into the weight, but there’s no Olympic weight below that so he’s going straight in, and we’ll see how things develop.”
The final fight of the night sees Springtown super-heavy Jack Devine going for a final place against Cavan’s experienced Thomas Maughan, with Gilford’s Willie John McCartan waiting in the decider.
Tonight (Dockers Club, 7.30pm start)
Ulster 9 county boy/girl 4-7 finals
Girl 4 51kg: A Kelly (Oakleaf) v A Casey (Banbridge)
Boy 4 63kg: C Fox (Oliver Plunkett) v G McNamara (Dunfanaghy)
Girl 5 52kg: S Fleming (Holy Trinity) v A Dougan (Armagh)
Boy 5 57kg: J Daly (D-Box) v C Durning (Dunfanaghy)
Ulster Elite Championship semi-finals
51kg: C dos Santos (Holy Trinity) v J Stevenson (Bangor Abbey)
60kg: T Alin (Holy Trinity) v R Owens (Erne)
71kg: S McClorey (Holy Family) v J McConnell (Holy Trinity)
92+kg: T Maughan (Cavan) v J Devine (Springtown)