FIVE of the ten Kildare boxers who fought in the semi finals of the Elite National Championships at the National Stadium last Friday and Saturday night will return for this weekend’s finals showdown hoping to bring home titles at their respective weights, writes John Ryan.
Ryston trio Hugh Myers, Dervla Duffy and Chris Phelan, as well as Athy’s Roy Sheehan and Grangecon’s Ross Hickey, all moved a step closer to getting their hands on belts at 49, 54, 52, 75 and 64 kilograms respectively following their last four wins.
There was disappointment however, for Athy quartet Hugh Joyce, David Oliver Joyce (beaten 17-12 at 60kg by Dublin’s George Bates), John Joe Joyce (beaten at 69kg by Willie McLoughlin of Illies Golden Gloves 16-14) and Eric Donovan – who, like Sheehan, all represent the St Michael’s club – while Stephen Treacy of Newbridge-club Ryston also came out on the wrong side of the scoring card when going down 18-10 to TJ Waite of Cairn Lodge at 59kg.
Myers, seeking to win the title at 49kg after two-time Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes withdrew with the flu, got the ball rolling last Friday when he enjoyed a 17-11 victory over Dublin’s Adam Courtney of the St Mary’s club.
Despite taking a few big rights early in the first round, the likeable Myers settled into the contest to take a 7-5 lead at the end of the opening round, before comfortably taking the second 7-3 with some clever boxing. The third round was scored 3-3.
“He (Courtney) stood more than I thought he would,” explained Myers, the clear favourite to take Barnes’ belt.
“In the first round I was a bit too anxious but then my coaches told me to relax. The last round I knew I had the fight; I had boxed cleverly in the second. But he was better than I thought he would be but still, I am just delighted to have a win under my belt going into next week’s final.”
Myers, who had been struggling with a virus in the week leading up to the bout, classed his performance as a “seven out of ten”, before admitting the “it is always good to win when you are not boxing at your best.”
Duffy meanwhile, after taking a 5-1 first round lead, enjoyed one of the more comfortable of wins when seeing off European junior silver medallist Christine Gargan of St George’s BC 16-6. The Newbridge lady dominated from the first bell to the last, dictating the fight from the centre of the ring and punishing her opponent’s over-eagerness with ruthlessness ease.
“I was pretty confident going in to the fight because I felt coming down from 57kg – which I felt strong at it – I would be too strong for her,” explained Duffy.
“My aim was to dictate the fight and to be honest she let me do that because she just left herself too open all the time and I was in turn able to catch her all the time. Maybe it was a bit of cuteness and experience on my part but she too is experienced as well – she is a European medallist which I am not.
“But there is definitely room for improvement in me ahead of next week’s final because I need to get up to a level of European medal standard. I have trained non-stop twice a day for the past four months to get to where I am now but there is still another level I need and feel I can get to; hopefully next week it will all pay off.”
In an all-Kildare bout on Saturday, Phelan fended off the challenge of Hugh Joyce, winning out 15-7 after taking the three rounds 5-3, 5-2 and 5-2 despite this been his first fight of the year! He will now face AIBA World No. 3 and Olympic bronze medallist at London 2012, Michael Conlon, in the final for the second successive year.
“I was very rusty, it was my first fight of the year,” said Phelan following the final bell.
“To get the win I was happy enough. I didn’t really mind about the scoring, it was just to get the feel of the ring again having been so long without a fight. To get the win I was over the moon.
“That was the plan, to get ahead as quick as I could and then just get the feel for the ring. Mix it up a bit, try a few different styles and see how it goes from there. It doesn’t matter about the boxing, it’s just the feel of the ring.
“I’d like to say a big thanks to the Irish Defence Forces and the training staff in the Curragh, all the NCOs and the Sergeant-staff – they had to give me time off. They’ve been very good to me. They’ve given me whatever time I needed. If I needed anything they were there for me.
“With the army it’s been a lot of running and strength and conditioning – that’s what I need for the final so to get that in there I was happy to get it. Getting the boxing in the evenings (in Ryston) so I was getting three types of training all day everyday – it’s what I needed for this.
“I’m 12 weeks in now (with recruits in the army). Last fight I had was last March in Lithuania and I had to pull out with a hand injury in the first round when I was winning 2-1. The hand’s back right again and training is going well. I’m fighting (Michael) Conlan for the third year in a row. It’s nice to get back in there, the atmosphere is something special on finals night, you can’t beat it.
“They (Defence Forces) did say if I got to the finals, they’d all come up, the whole platoon so it’ll be nice to have that.
Elsewhere, Sheehan – despite suffering a first round knockdown – got the better of Derry’s Conor Coyle on a count-back, prevailing 33-27 after the judges scored rounds 1-3 2-2, 5-5 and 3-3.
“I thought I would have nicked it by one or two shots in the end,” remarked Sheehan.
“He had a good game-plan coming in. I fought him (Conor Coyle) about a year and a half ago and he mostly went back but this time he came to me with the one-twos. He had me sussed out a bit from the start with a nice one-two at one stage so I had to be careful.”
On the knock-down, Sheehan admitted that the “nice shot” caught him “fair and square but I was on the way back so he caught me a bit off-balance.
“I just had to be clever and nick a few body-shots because he was wide open to the body. He fought very well, he’s after improving a fair bit.
“I’m only gone up to 75kg, this is my first championships at 75. I weighed in over a kilo this morning and I didn’t even train yesterday so I went to the sauna so I’m still light. A lot of the boys are still bigger than me and stronger than me so I have to build up but it was good, good to get the three rounds in there tonight for next week. (Jason) Quigley is something similar (to Coyle) – a good right hand over the top so I may work on that.
“I knew coming into this and I said to my family that this was going to be a cagey fight. He (Coyle) boxes similar to myself, he stands up nice and high. I said if I come into trouble the only way I can get it is sneak a few body shots.
“But I wasn’t that happy the way I performed tonight. I only got about 20 seconds last week (he stopped his man in the first round). I would have liked to have gotten the three rounds last week to get the feel of the ring. My fitness is all there but I just need to do a good bit of pads during the week and keep my head focussed.
“I didn’t feel good in there at all, my punches weren’t going properly. The fitness is there. But it’s grand (being at 75kg), I can eat what I want. I do be under my weight walking around. At 75 I should be up around 78, 79. I need to put on a few pounds.”
Not to be outdone, defending 64kg champion Ross Hickey remains on course for a third title after seeing off Rohan Date (St Paul’s, Waterford), winning out by 9-6.
“Getting into the final is what it is all about,” said Hickey.
“But that was not a good performance – he was very tricky in that he was always on the edge of attack and didn’t move until I moved.
“I am looking for to the final now. I will worry about myself and no-one else this week. It is going to be a good final against Ray Moylett (St Anne’s) and we will see what happens.”
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