‘I knew if I performed I could win’: King of the Hills McCole upsets McConnell to claim Ulster crown

Louis Rooney (Star) celebrates capturing the Ulster light-fly title with victory over Padraig Downey (St John Bosco) on Friday night. Picture by Mark Marlow
Louis Rooney (Star) celebrates capturing the Ulster light-fly title with victory over Padraig Downey (St John Bosco) on Friday night. Picture by Mark Marlow
Amateur boxing: Ulster Elite Championship finals

MATTHEW McCole has come out on the wrong side of enough split decisions to write a book – but at Girdwood Community Hub on Friday night the Donegal man stunned defending champion Jon McConnell in the light-middleweight final.

Southpaw McCole boxed a smart fight throughout, and did enough to take a 3-2 decision in the judges’ eyes to send the travelling support into raptures.

“I just had to be relaxed and perform – I knew if I performed I could win,” said the 25-year-old.

“I’ve lost a fair few split decisions, that’s probably the first I’ve won, but tonight I just went out and boxed. It’s his home town, he won them last year so I knew I was going to be up against it.

“I’m just delighted to get the win here.”

There was cause for double celebration for Illies GG too as Cahir Gormley, who lost in last year’s Ulster final, got the better of Gianni Richmond (Cairn Lodge).

Earlier in the evening, JP Hale swept to a fourth Ulster elite title on a memorable night for the Star club.

In a repeat of last year’s 63.5kg final, Hale dictated the pace from the start, landing strong shots on the counter as Erne’s Anthony Malanaphy fell short.

It was more of the same in the second round until Malanaphy forced the pace in the third, but Hale had done enough to have his hand raised. With young cousin Louis Rooney winning his first Ulster elite title earlier in the evening, it was a special one for the family, and the north Belfast club.

Rooney followed in his father’s footsteps by landing his first Ulster elite title in his first senior bout, taking a unanimous decision win over St John Bosco’s Padraig Downey.

Dad Jimbo reigned supreme as the light-flyweight king of Ulster and Ireland in his pomp, with Louis landing the Irish U18 crown last year before adding the Ulster elite crown.

The unanimous decision was harsh on Downey, however, as there was very little to separate the pair after three engrossing rounds, with both landing eye-catching shots.

“He’s last year’s Ulster elite champion but I’m not going to shy away from a challenge. I’m an Irish champion myself,” said Rooney

“I thought I did enough to get the win, I can’t take anything away from Padraig he’s a good fighter, but the better man won on the day.

“I gassed out a wee bit [at the end] and obviously had to push to win my first elite title in my first year of elite boxing, first fight without the headguards.”

And, with his dad watching on, and his big cousin also in action, it was a night talented teenager won’t forget for a while.

“It means a lot,” he said.

“I’ve been training twice a day, five days a week for the last five weeks to get this. It means everything to me, everything to the club.

“Obviously I’m following in my dad’s footsteps, and then my big cousin John Paul who’s fighting tonight as well.

“JP went to the Commonwealth Games, he’s Irish elite champion as well. We push each other on, we’re training every day with each other and pushing each other on to be the best we can be.”

Carleigh Irving marked her step up to the senior ranks with a unanimous decision win over the experienced Chloe Fleck in the light-fly final, the Oakleaf woman the busier of the two throughout.

And there was double celebration for the Derry club when Jack Harkin, also in his first bout without the headguard had too much for Matthew Boreland in the 54kg decider.

Erne’s Rhys Owens exacted some revenge on Teo Alin after last year’s Ulster elites defeat to the Holy Trinity boxer, this time his greater work-rate clearly catching the eye of the ringside judges, while Cahir Gormley took a 3-2 split over Gianni Richmond in the welterweight final.

A series of special contest got the action under way, with two-time Commonwealth Games silver medallist Carly McNaul marking her return to the ring with victory over Emerald’s Courtney McCrudden.

Anthony Taggart scored a second win of the night for Ormeau Road when he edged a close bout with Conor McKernan, before Ratoath’s classy Gavin Ryan proved too tall and elusive for the game Donagh Keary.

In the final special contest, Holy Trinity’s Davy McDonagh got the nod after a heavyweight slugfest with Ali Ahmed.


Special contests

57kg/60kg: C McNaul (Ormeau Road) bt C McCrudden (Emerald)

86kg: A Taggart (Ormeau Road) bt C McKernan (Castleblayney)

57kg: G Ryan (Ratoath) bt D Keary (Rathfriland)

92kg: D McDonagh (Holy Trinity) bt A Ahmed (Ormeau Road)


48kg: C Irving (Oakleaf) bt C Fleck (Canal) 5-0

48kg: L Rooney (Star) bt P Downey (St John Bosco) 5-0

54kg: J Harkin (Oakleaf) bt M Boreland (Churchlands) 4-1

60kg: R Owens (Erne) bt T Alin (Holy Trinity) 5-0

63.5kg: JP Hale (Star) bt A Malanaphy (Erne) 4-1

67kg: C Gormley (Illies GG) bt G Richmond (Cairn Lodge) 3-2

71kg: M McCole (Illies GG) bt J McConnell (Holy Trinity) 3-2

75kg: L Weston (Emerald) bt M Kambule (Holy Trinity) 3-1

92+kg: WJ McCartan (Gilford) v T Seaton (Ormeau Road)

Walkovers – 51kg: C Dos Santos (Holy Trinity); 57kg: D Keary (Rathfriland); 86kg: A Taggart (Ormeau Road); 92kg: D McDonagh (Holy Trinity); 50kg: C Fryers (Immaculata); 54kg: N Clyde (Antrim); 57kg: C McCrudden (Emerald); 60kg: C McNaul (Ormeau Road); 63kg: C Coiley (Clonard); 66kg: G McDonnell (Holy Trinity)