Show still on the road for Ulster High Performance as Scottish team comes to town

International exposure key for young boxers insists coach Liam Corr

The Scottish team came to the Ulster High Performance unit for a sparring camp at the weekend
The Scottish team came to the Ulster High Performance unit for a sparring camp at the weekend

THE Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) is still on the hunt for a full-time Ulster High Performance coach, but the show remains on the road after a sparring camp with Scotland at the weekend.

Although unable to spar as he recovers from an operation on his hand earlier this year, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Dylan Eagleson was among those at the Ulster HP’s Jordanstown base, alongside the top up-and-coming talent in the north.

The Scottish team arrived on Friday, did school of combat on Friday night before solid sparring days on Saturday and Sunday under the watchful eye of coaches JP Delaney, Liam Corr, Paddy Barnes, Matthew Toner and Marty Laverty.

And while so much focus centres on this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris, the emerging crew have their eyes on the next Commonwealth Games in 2026 – provided it is given the go-ahead.

Amid struggles to secure a host city following the withdrawal of Victoria, Australia, doubts have been cast over the future of the Games, with further details expected in the coming months after 2014 host Glasgow was mooted as a possible replacement.

From the Ulster HP perspective, however, it is business as usual as they plan ahead for the Games until told otherwise.

“We’re two years out from the next Commonwealths, so it’s important that these guys get that international experience in camps like this,” said Corr, a coach at north Belfast club Star.

“We have a young team there, a lot of them who will be targeting the U22 championships – the likes of Louis Rooney, Donagh Keary, Dylan Eagleson, Nicole Clyde, Clepson dos Santos, Jon McConnell... you have an array of talent.

“All we’re doing is trying to add to the good work the clubs are already doing, because without the clubs these boxers wouldn’t be there.

“Thankfully the whole thing is being steered by Aimee Shields, the Ulster High Performance manager – Aimee has been sorting out all the programmes out, doing all the camps, bringing all the kids in and co-ordinating everything really, then we’re doing what we can as well.

“She’s the glue that has held everything together.”

And Corr, a Commonwealth Games coach in Birmingham two years ago, knows the success of the Ulster HP programme is there for all to see.

“We lined out the kids on Saturday – for some of them it was their first time up in Jordanstown – and we said ‘listen, you’re the future, Jude Gallagher, Dylan Eagleson, JP Hale, Aidan Walsh, they all stood in this line as youth and juniors in front of us and look where they are now’.

“This is the pathway, and they can see how others have come along the same way and gone right to the very top.”

The coming weeks will see two Ulster High Performance teams in international action, the first competing at the Portimao Box Cup in Portugal from May 22-28 includes Courtney McCrudden (Emerald), Caprice Coiley (Clonard), Karl Reilly (Immaculata), Anthony Malanaphy (Erne), Gianni Richmond (Cair Lodge), Cahir Gormley (Illies GG), Anthony Taggart (Ormeau Road) and Garyn McAllister (Holy Family), with coaches Corr, Toner and Paddy Gallagher, R&J Alex O’Neill, team manager Aimee Shields and physiologist Declan Gamble.

Another will enter the Golden Belts competition in Romania from June 11-16.

Closer to home, a County Antrim select will face a team from the Olympic club in Mullingar at Corpus Christi on Saturday, with the action getting under way at 1.30pm.

Programme (Co Antrim names first) – B1 31kg: C Cassidy (Phoenix) v A Nugent; B1 37kg: O McGarry (Glengormley) v C Kit Joyce; B1 41.5kg: R McClarnon (Antrim) v J Stokes; B3 44.5kg: O Woods (Ormeau Road) v O Kilmurray; B3 46kg: J Conway (Glengormley) v A Stokes); G2-3: E Sheppard (Rathfriland) v K Nevin; B4 40kg: R Quinn (St Paul’s) v C Stokes; BG 70kg: S Doherty (Phoenix) v J Joyce; G7 54kg: N Clyde (Antrim) v N Keogh; B7 60kg: J Graham (Clonard) v J McNamee; 54kg: TBC v P Joyce; 67kg: C McCrory (Townland) v L Hall