All roads lead to Derry for Ulster Elite Championship finals

St John's, Swatragh's Eoghan Quinn got the better of Holy Family's Cathal Jennings to claim the Ulster senior title in October, and hopes to add the Ulster elite crown when he faces Jon McConnell at the Guildhall tonight. Picture by Mark Marlow
St John's, Swatragh's Eoghan Quinn got the better of Holy Family's Cathal Jennings to claim the Ulster senior title in October, and hopes to add the Ulster elite crown when he faces Jon McConnell at the Guildhall tonight. Picture by Mark Marlow

Boxing: Ulster Elite Championship finals

SOME of Eoghan Quinn’s old school-mates are still on a major high after Glen’s provincial title success on Sunday – and he bids to join them by becoming an Ulster champion at Derry’s Guildhall tonight.

The 20-year-old Swatragh man was in the same class as Ethan Doherty and Conleth McGuckian during their days at St Patrick’s College, Maghera.

That pair were key as Glen landed a first ever Ulster crown, dethroning defending champions Kilcoo - with McGuckian named man of the match at the Athletic Grounds. And Quinn is eyeing up his own big breakthrough when he takes on Holy Trinity’s Jon McConnell for the light-middleweight title.

With injury forcing him out of the running last year, it is the first time the St John’s clubman has entered the Ulster Elite Championships – and, in McConnell, he comes up against a familiar foe.

“We’ve met a right few times through the years, though never at elite level.

“We’ve always been fairly evenly matched, so it should be a good fight. And the fact it’s in Derry, and there’s a few boxers from Derry in the finals, makes it that bit more special. I boxed in the Guildhall when I was 11 or 12 but I don’t remember a whole lot about it.

“I’m looking forward to going back there.”

Like McConnell, Quinn has moved up to the 71kg weight class – partly because it had become a problem fitting his growing frame into 67kg, while light-middle is the next weight class up if he is harbouring Olympic ambitions for Paris 2024.

“I would have entered the Ulster elites at 67 last year only I broke my hand, which would have put me in the mix for the Commonwealth Games.

“I’d have fancied myself for it, but it was just the way things went. It was maybe lucky enough anyway, if I had won at that weight, by the time the Commonwealths came about I don’t know if I’d have even made it any more.

“I was too tall and skinny for it… I felt weak. Now I’ve moved up, I’ve filled out, putting on a bit of muscle, I feel a lot stronger, a lot fitter and healthier.

“After this I’m definitely looking to do well in the Irish elites, then you can think about Paris. Even then, there’s the U22s after, the European U22s, so I’ll hopefully be busy in the new year.”

As part of his development, Quinn spent a large part of the summer at the Ulster High Performance unit, helping the Commonwealth team prepare for Birmingham, and pitting his wits against Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh in sparring.

Coming into his showdown with the ambitious McConnell, who swept to a unanimous victory over Holy Family’s Shane McClorey in Friday’s semi-final, Quinn hopes those experiences can stand to him.

“You were working with the like of Aidan, Jake Tucker, and I got on good. I really enjoyed it.

“Then during the summer I was also over in America with the Bridges Beyond Boxing team, had three tough fights at elite level, in a fairly different environment. The whole thing was unreal, the best trip I’ve ever been on and you’d still be in touch with the other boys and even the families we stayed with.

“Those things all bring you on that bit more.”



Tonight (Guildhall, Derry - 8pm start)

Special contests

54/57kg: Dylan Eagleson (St Paul’s) v Donagh Keary (Rathfriland)

57kg: Paddy McShane (Letterkenny) v Tiarnan Glennon (St Joseph’s)

75kg: Tiarnan Mayse (Two Castles) v Peter Clarke (Errigal)

92kg: Tom Seaton (Ormeau Road) v Patrick Love (Loup)

Ulster Elite Championship finals

80kg: Sean Donaghy (St Canice’s) v Rory Kinney (Scorpion)

52kg: Carly McNaul (Ormeau Road) v Nicole Clyde (Antrim)

60kg: Lee McKee (Star) v Teo Alin (Holy Trinity)

86kg: Conor Maguire (Dockers) v Stephen Broadhurst (St Bronagh’s)

67kg: Cahir Gormley (Illies) v Barry McReynolds (Holy Trinity)

92+kg: Willie John McCartan (Gilford) v Thomas Maughan (Cavan)

63.5kg: JP Hale (Star) v Anthony Malanaphy (Erne)

71kg: Eoghan Quinn (St John’s) v Jon McConnell (Holy Trinity)

51kg: Blaine Dobbins (St Joseph’s) v Clepson dos Santos (Holy Trinity)


BARRY McReynolds ends a three-year exodus from the ring tonight when he takes on Illies’ talented Cahir Gormley in tonight’s welterweight final.

The Holy Trinity man, a former Ulster elite champion, hasn’t climbed between the ropes for a competitive bout since losing out to Brandon McCarthy in the final of the Irish elites in November 2019.

And it should be an interesting fight, with Gormley adding to his burgeoning reputation by picking up the Best Boxer award at the Ulster senior championships back in September.

“Barry has always been doing a bit but in terms of getting into fighting shape, it was always a wee bit difficult,” said Holy Trinity coach Michael Hawkins.

“They have to want it, that’s the bottom line, and at the minute he’s in a far better place. He had his apprenticeship in the plumbing, went full-time into that, and that’s more important than last year’s championships or the year before.

“He’s back, he’s in good shape, and it’ll be interesting to see how he performs. It’s a great match for the final.”

Also on tonight’s Guildhall bill, Commonwealth Games team-mates Carly McNaul and Nicole Clyde face off in the only female final at this year’s Ulster elites.

Antrim woman Clyde lost out to eventual minimumweight gold medallist - India’s Nitu Ghangas - back in August, and the 20-year-old faces a tough test on her return to the ring, moving up to flyweight for a showdown with two-time Commonwealth silver medallist McNaul.

Like Clyde, McNaul came up short against a member of the talented Indian team in Birmingham, losing out to the rangy Nikhat Zareen in the flyweight final, but the east Belfast woman will hope her vast experience can stand her in good stead tonight.

Another intriguing bout is between experienced Derry man Blaine Dobbins and teenager Clepson dos Santos.

Former Irish elite champion Dobbins has been out of the ring since 2017, and faces a tough test on his return against a man who also impressed at the summer’s Commonwealth Games.

With his slick skills, 18-year-old Dos Santos is a handful for most, and scored a stoppage win over Bangor Abbey’s James Stevenson in Friday’s semi-final at the Dockers club.

Two time Ulster champion JP Hale - another of the Commonwealth contingent - takes on Erne’s Anthony Malanaphy in the 63.5kg final, while Hale’s Star club-mate Lee McKee faces Holy Trinity’s Teo Alin in the lightweight decider.

Sean Donaghy of St Canice’s and Scorpion’s Rory Kinney, beaten in last year’s final, open the action tonight in the 80kg final, while the returning Stephen Broadhurst – boxing out of the St Bronagh’s club in Rostrevor – is up against Conor Maguire (Dockers) at 86kg.

In the super-heavyweight final, Gilford’s Willie John McCartan faces Cavan’s tough Thomas Maughan, who accounted for Springtown’s Jack Devine in the semi-final.

Although he received a walkover at 54kg, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Dylan Eagleson takes on Rathfriland’s Donagh Keary in one of tonight’s special contests.