A FEW months ago, Donagh Keary could have been standing in the dark at 3am, up to his thighs in freezing cold water searching for oysters in Dundrum Bay – now he is throwing everything at chasing his boxing dream in the coming years.
Sponsorship allowed the Castlewellan teenager to concentrate full-time on the sport he has loved since dad Sean started taking him to Carl Frampton’s fights, ‘The Jackal’ a source of inspiration from beginning to end.
And now Keary is plotting his own course in the fight game, the most recent step of which took him to the European U22 Championships in Montenegro, where he narrowly missed out on the medal stages.
However, having landed the Irish intermediate title in September, the Rathfriland BC featherweight hopes there are big things to come in the years ahead.
“I got into boxing because I was getting bullied in football and hurling when I was younger, so my dad started taking me to the club,” he said
“Before, I was always scared of everything, then after my first spar I was scared of nothing. I loved it from the start, and I haven’t looked back since.
“The Europeans was a great experience, but next year I want to go to those U22s and come back with gold. The boy that beat me, he was beat in the final on a split. He was a good bit older than me too, but I know on a different day I could’ve beat him, I just didn’t perform.
“Next year I’ll be much better.”
Keary was one of several boxers selected on the Irish team faced with a conundrum over whether to focus on the domestic or international scene.
He could easily have chosen to throw his hat in the ring for the ultra-competitive 57kg division at the Irish elite championships, where the opportunity to nudge ahead in the race to represent Ireland at next year’s Olympic qualifier was the prize on offer.
Jude Gallagher eventually finished top of a pile that included the likes of fellow Commonwealth Games gold medallist Dylan Eagleson, Adam Hession and defending champion Paul Loonam.
And it was that depth of talent, and the lure of competing in Budva, that swayed Keary towards the U22s.
“It wasn’t that tough a decision for me, though I can see why other people thought about it.
“My weight would be pretty stacked in terms of going to the Olympics, there was probably six or seven different boys and any of them, on their day, could win it.
“I broke my hand in July, but since it’s been healed up I’ve been aiming for this time of the year.”
And while he wasn’t in the mix this time around, Keary has no doubt his name will soon be added to that list of featherweight competitors.
“I know myself I can beat any of them, 100 per cent,” said the 19-year-old.
“You just have to beat one of them in competition, or perform at training down in Dublin. I’ve no pressure on me, but at the same I feel like I am in a mad rush to get up there – I want to be there as soon as possible.
“In the next few years I want to win a major medal, whether that’s Europeans, Worlds, Commonwealths… whatever.
“I feel like I’m getting better and getting stronger. I was training down in Dublin before the U22s, we’re back up at the Ulster High Performance in the next few weeks, and I’ve been sparring and training flat out with Rory Lavery.
“He has really helped bring me on over this whole year.”
WORLD BOXING TO HOST FIRST CONGRESS
WORLD Boxing will hold its first congress in Frankfurt on Saturday.
The elected positions of president, vice-president and seats on the executive committee will be decided, as well as the presidents of the sport and competition committee, the medical and anti-doping committee and the finance and audit committee.
World Boxing - formed in April as a rival to the controversial International Boxing Association (IBA) - is still finding its feet as an organisation, with this weekend's agenda also including the formal approval of statutes and national federation applications for membership and associate membership, as well as the approval of World Boxing's strategic plan and budget.
The new body currently has 27 member federations – though Ireland is not one of them, after months of debate within the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) with it remaining a part of the IBA.
Back in August, members of the IABA voted against a change to its constitution that would have opened up a possible move to World Boxing – an EGM vote required support from 75 per cent of delegates, but achieved only 71 per cent.
All national federations affiliated to World Boxing that have received more than 40 nominations can participate in the congress and vote in the elections. Its members will have two or three votes depending on their compliance with the voting rules detailed in the World Boxing statutes.
The elections will be supervised by an independent and experienced organisation.
* HOLY Trinity will host its annual end of year show and awards night at the club on Thursday.
With Holy Trinity boxers taking on a County Antrim select, there will be 15 exhibition bouts from schoolboy through to senior.
Boxing gets under way at 7pm, admission £5.