Seconds Out: Big guns enter Irish elite championship mix
FIGHT fans are licking their lips ahead of today’s Irish Elite Championship draw as some of the biggest names in Irish boxing prepare to showcase their skills at the National Stadium in the coming weeks.
Olympic golden girl Kellie Harrington, World champions Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke, and Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Aidan Walsh are among those in the mix, alongside a host of experienced campaigners and emerging talents as 106 boxers entered – 64 men and 42 women.
Following this afternoon’s draw, preliminary rounds take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with quarter-finals on Sunday. Semi-finals are scheduled for Friday, January 20 with an eagerly anticipated finals night on Saturday, January 21.
Unlike in recent years, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association and the High Performance unit have requested any fighter with Olympic ambitions to enter the upcoming championships as the selection battle begins.
However, the weight classes for Paris 2024 have forced boxers across the country to look up and down the scales as they weigh up different qualification routes – with June’s European Games in Poland marking the start of that process.
The seven men’s weight classes are 51kg, 57kg, 63.5kg, 71kg, 80kg, 92kg and 92kg+, while the six women’s weights are 50kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 66kg and 75kg.
That has led to some seriously competitive weights in the upcoming championships – none moreso than the female 66kg category.
Broadhurst revealed before Christmas that, rather than challenge Harrington for the lightweight spot, she had decided to move up to pursue her Paris dream.
So while the only other entrants alongside Harrington at 60kg are Zara Breslin and Clodagh Greene, Broadhurst keeps company with European Games bronze medallist Grainne Walsh, European silver medallist Christina Desmond, Kaci Rock - who competed at last year’s Worlds in Turkey - and Togher youngster Leanne Murphy.
Also in the mix is Broadhurst’s fellow World gold medallist Lisa O’Rourke, who opts to come down to 66kg from 71kg rather than going up 75kg, where elder sister Aoife stakes her claim.
The female 50kg division is similarly stacked, with fireworks promised from the opening bell. Having won Commonwealth Games silver at 50kg, Carly McNaul comes back down from her recent 52kg Ulster title win to stake her claim for Paris.
Immaculata’s Caitlin Fryers, who picked up European silver last October in a breakthrough year, should fancy her chances too, while Daina Moorehouse has long been tipped for the top. A highly-decorated operator, the woman Moorehouse defeated in last year’s Irish final – Niamh Early – has also thrown her hat into the ring.
Completing the entry list is Mayo’s Shannon Sweeney, a European bronze medallist at 48kg who has moved up to fly for these championships.
Another one well worth watching is the men’s 57kg class, where Jude Gallagher – so impressive en route to Commonwealth Games gold last summer – lines up alongside defending Irish champion Adam Hession, who beat Gallagher on the way to claiming that crown 15 months ago.
Also in the mix are the experienced Myles Casey, who represented Ireland at the 2015 European Games and comes into these championships off the back of sparring Katie Taylor, as well as Sean Purcell, Patryk Adamus, Jake Rapple, Jake Mc Mahon, Paul Loonam, Jordan Smith and Donegal’s Paddy McShane, who moves up after claiming the Irish 51kg crown last year.
One name who many expected to be among those at 57kg is Dylan Eagleson, but the 19-year-old Commonwealth Games gold medallist remains at 54kg for now.
The 63.5kg division packs plenty of intrigue too. Star’s JP Hale - who recently picked up a third Ulster elite title - faces some stiff competition, with defending champion Brandon McCarthy, European U22 gold medallist Dean Clancy and 2020 Ulster champion Daryl Clarke among those in the frame.
In the absence of the traditional middleweight division, Galway’s European gold medallist Gabriel Dossen has moved up to 80kg, where a mouth-watering showdown with Waterford’s Kelyn Cassidy could be in the offing.
As he did on the way to Commonwealth Games gold in Birmingham, Aidan Walsh will have to negotiate some choppy waters to ensure he remains number one at 71kg, with Luke Maguire, the returning Dean Walsh, Donegal’s Matthew McCole and Holy Trinity firecracker Jon McConnell – who has moved up from 63.5kg last year – all eyeing up his spot.
Aidan’s sister Michaela brings the experience to the featherweight draw, with Kellie McLoughlin, Kelsey Leonard and Isabella Hughes the other 57kg entrants.
NEWRY REF TUCKER AWARDED THREE STAR STATUS
THERE was a late Christmas present for Barry Tucker when he was awarded three-star R&J status by the International Boxing Association.
The Newry man, who started refereeing in 2015, completed a 12-day training course in Mexico towards the end of last year, with his certification at the highest R&J qualification level confirmed in late December.
IBA one star R&Js may officiate at U22, U14 and junior continental competitions, two stars may officiate at youth continental competitions and any qualifying competition for World events, while three star R&Js may officiate at the Olympic Games, European Games, Asian Games, Pan American Games and Commonwealth Games, in addition to IBA World tournaments.
Tucker - whose sons Kane and Jake are both top elite boxers – thanked the Irish Athletic Boxing Association for the opportunity to attend the IBA course in Guadalajara, and is relishing the road ahead.
“All referees should adhere to the same sort of ethics. It’s red or blue, end of story, no matter who is in that ring,” he said.
“The day you think you know everything is the day to get out of the sport, because there are different things happen every time you’re refereeing or judging that challenge you, and that’s the way it should be.
“You always have to be on your game. Every day is a learning day in boxing, but it’s a great opportunity and I’m really looking forward to it.”
January 12-15, 20-21: National Elite Championships (National Stadium)
January 23-26: Antrim novices’ competition (Brook Leisure Centre)
February (date to be finalised): IABA awards night
February 6-9: Antrim novices’ competition (Ballysillan Leisure Centre)
February 17-19, 24-26, March 3-5: National U22 Championships/National U18 Championships (National Stadium)
February 21-23: Antrim Boy/Girl 4-6(7) Championships/national qualifier (Corpus Christi)
March 10-11, 17-18, 24-31 (April 1 if required): National Boy/Girl 4, Junior 1 & 2 Championships (Dungarvan)
March (date TBC): European U22 Championships
March 28-30: Antrim Boy/Girl 1, 2 & 3 Championships/national qualifier (Corpus Christi)
April 10-16, 20-21: National Boy/Girl 1, 2 & 3 Championships (National Stadium)
April (date TBC): European Youth Championships
April 28, May 5-6, 13-20: National Senior Cadets Boy/Girl 4, Junior 1 (National Stadium)
June 9-11, 16-18, 23-24: National Junior Cadets Boy/Girl 2 & 3 (National Stadium)
June 22-25: Monkstown Box Cup (Dublin)
June 23-July 2: European Games (Olympic qualifier, Poland)
July (date TBC): European Junior Championships
August (date TBC): International tournament; European schoolboy/girl championships
September (date TBC): Celtic Box Cup (Dungarvan)
October 13-15: Esker Box Cup (Dublin)
October 6-8, 13-21: National Senior Championships (National Stadium)
November 1-11: 2024 National Elite Championships (National Stadium)