The Ryston Four ... aiming for Eliteness

IT’S four years since a boxer from Ryston last won and National Elite Senior title. A long time for such a decorated and successful club. Too long, writes Ruth Chambers.

IT’S four years since a boxer from Ryston last won and National Elite Senior title. A long time for such a decorated and successful club. Too long, writes Ruth Chambers.

The club is hoping it won’t be five come the 22nd of this month. They have four shots at titles. Women’s bantamweight, light flyweight, and flyweight. Dervla Duffy, Hughie Myers, Stephen Treacy and Chris Phelan will fly the flag for the Newbridge club at the Elite finals, which got under way last weekend and will continue next weekend at the National Stadium.

Last year three of the four made it all the way to finals night. All three came home empty handed. It wasn’t a nice feeling and it’s a feeling they don’t want to experience again in 2013.

The last Ryston representative to win a national senior title was Dervla Duffy, while last year Duffy, originally from Monaghan, was beaten in the featherweight decider by Michaela Walsh from the Holy Family club. A result that left her reeling, however fast forward twelve months and Duffy has dropped down to the bantamweight division and she is confident of making amends and taking the title.

“I’m dropping down to a weight below. I boxed 57 (kg) last year but I’m doing 54 (kg) this year. I sat down with my coach and we talked about the fact that the Europeans were meant to be in Ireland up until a few days ago and the IABA would have definitely sent a full team. A lot of girls dropped to 57 to get around Katie Taylor for the Europeans. If you do win a senior you have a better chance of winning a medal at the 54kg because there’s a lot of very good European girls at 57kg. So that was the main reason and preparations are going well. I’m feeling great,” Duffy told the Leinster Leader this week.

Losing a final is one thing that drove Duffy on over the course of the last twelve months. Defeat is a difficult pill to swallow and she’s eager to make amends.

“Had I won a title easy last year I probably wouldn’t have trained as hard this year because physiologically you’d think it would just be another walk in the park. When someone beats you though it makes you more determined to come back and win,” she insisted.

Another man determined to come back and win is light flyweight Hughie Myers. The amiable youngster, at just 18, made it all the way to the final last year and met now two time Olympian Paddy Barnes.

Nobody gave the kid from Ryston a cat in hell’s chance of beating the Belfast man. He didn’t beat him either but Barnes only prevailed 21-17 after a super three rounds at the stadium. Afterward Barnes was full of praise for Myers but this time round Hughie will not be content with just slaps on the back.

His chances were boosted last Friday with the news that Barnes will not be defending his title due to a dose of flu.

“I was happy last year but I want to be happier this year!” says Myers.

“Listen, you have to get through the semi finals before you can think of a final. In saying that I’m feeling very confident. I have everything done now. I’ve been sparring four or five days a week, I have no excuses and if someone beats me they will be the better man.

“I’ve had a European Under 21 fight since last year and even though I’m only young, things like that will all help me out. I have been up there (at the stadium) sparring with the likes of Michael Conlan and Shane Roche so I’m ready for action,” added the light flyweight contender.

Of course Myers could meet his club mate in the final. Stephen Treacy, Ryston youngest entry in to the finals, will also complete at light flyweight. He will make his debut at the national finals after winning an intermediate title at flyweight last year and he doesn’t seem fazed by the occasion whatsoever.

“I can’t wait for it now,” admitted Treacy.

“I was happy enough to win the intermediate this year at flyweight (51kg) and now I’m gone down to light fly so hopefully I’ll give it a good go. I’m very happy with my year so far, training has been very good so I’m ready.

“I’m at college in Waterford so I’ve also been doing a bit of training at the St Paul’s club with Lynn (McEnery) who is going in at 48kg as well so I’ve been getting good sparring with her.

I really hope myself or Hughie (Myers) wins it. The way the draw is looking it could be me and Hughie in the final. That would be tight, it would be close enough but one of us will have to come through it,” added Treacy.

Ryston’s final entry is Kildare Town’s Chris Phelan, the man who has broken heartedly tasted defeat in two senior finals in a row. Last year the army recruit was beaten by Olympic bronze medalist Michael Conlon in the 52kg final and Phelan is hoping that success will be a third time lucky kind of thing.

“I was disgusted last year to be honest. I was the same the year before. To get to two finals and be beaten is not a good feeling. I’m hoping it will be a case of third time lucky for me this year. My goal is to win it out anyway,” he admitted.

Phelan has recently joined the Defence Forces and is currently in the process of completing recruit training. Coming boxing at such a level and army life hasn’t been the easiest of tasks for the Ryston man but he’s managing it.

“I joined the army two and a half months ago and I’m in The Curragh doing my recruit training at the moment and they have been very good to be in terms of letting me out to do my training here (Ryston) at night time. I also getting different training in the army, I’m getting strength and conditioning and I’m getting my running and then here I’m getting my boxing, my pad work and good sparring so I’m hoping it will all pay off,” he remarked.

For the third year in a row and the fourth time in five years Ryston were recently named as the Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s Club of the Year. National titles are plentiful within the club but bug ones have eluded them in recent years and coach Paddy Hughes is eager to make amends and confident that it will be done.

“Dervla (Duffy) won one four years ago and we haven’t won any since. Chris (Phelan) and Dervla (Duffy) got to finals the year after and were beaten. Dervla, Chris and Hughie (Myers) were beaten in finals last year so hopefully this year, with a bit of luck, the four of them could make the finals and go on and win them. The way they are training and the way they are progressing, I wouldn’t be surprised if the four of them were in the finals,” admitted Hughes.

“Stephen (Treacy) boxed out of his skin in the intermediates and he’s had close fights with Hughie (Myers) and there’s nothing between them. Stephen is very sharp and is an awkward south paw. Not many people like boxing against Stephen. His style is so quick and he’s good at turning and I’m confident that him or Hughie can win.

“Hughie ran Paddy Barnes to the pin of his collar last year and to be honest I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t win it this year going on the year he has had. We’ve sat down and watched the DVD of last year’s fight and we know where we made mistakes,” added Paddy.

The best thing to do with mistakes is learn from them. And that’s the plan for the next two weekends.

In 2012 seven boxers from Kildare clubs made it all the way to the finals. Only one of them, Ross Hickey, emerged victorious. This year the Ryston four, along with the gang from St Michael’s, Athy, and Hickey from Grangecon will all be looking for glory. They all won’t and can’t find it but the potential for glory is good. It’s very good.

The Elite National Championships got underway last Friday and will continue with the semi finals this weekend, culminating in the much anticipated finals on Friday, February 22.

Other boxers from Kildare clubs taking part in the finals include Hugh Joyce, Eric Donovan, David Oliver Joyce, John Joe Joyce, Roy Sheahan, Christy Joyce, Tommy Sheahan (St. Michael’s Athy) while Narraghmore native, Ross Hickey will represent Wicklow’s Grangecon Club.