Happy Senior Finals Eve to all our readers.
We’re just one day away from the biggest night of the year on the Irish amateur boxing calendar and it promises to one of the best and most talent-packed finals in recent years.
Now on a Saturday rather than the traditional Friday night, attendances should be boosted and we are expecting and full house and a raucous atmosphere for the TG4 cameras at the National Stadium.
A crucial tournament, with three majors for the women and two for the men on the horizon, the Tokyo paths could begin here for a number of fighters.
Read our preview of all 17 bouts below.
48kg – Women’s Light Flyweight
Chloe Fleck (Canal) V Donna Barr (Illies GG)
A repeat of last month’s razor-tight Ulster final, it’s a fantastic clash of styles to start the night. Donegal’s Barr began well at the Ulster Hall but was ground down by the relentless Fleck who scored a decisive third-round count to claim a split-decision win. Barr, who is returning from long-term injury, will be confident that she will be sharper and fitter this time while Fleck also believes she can improve.
49kg – Men’s Light Flyweight
Regan Buckley (St Teresa’s) V Sean Mari (Monkstown Dublin)
Having returned from the pros and picked up the Haringey and Irish U22 titles, Bray’s Buckley is going for the big one. A fully-formed beast at 49kg, he is especially unlucky to see the weight’s removal from the Olympics but he is thinking long-term and eventually moving up for the 2024 Games. Only 18, and also targeting Paris, Mari is a confident kid with plenty of talent and goes into the bout knowing he has nothing to lose.
51kg – Women’s Flyweight
Carly McNaul (Holy Family GG) V Niamh Earley (Ryston)
McNaul is one of the most improved adult fighters in Ireland following a 2018 in which she won Commonwealth silver. A power puncher, she will meet World Junior silver medallist and fellow physical tank Earley in the middle of the ring in what is sure to be a war to start off the TV broadcast. Both scored competitive wins over former underage star Caitlin Fryers and there looks to be little to separate them.
52kg – Men’s Flyweight
Evan Metcalfe (Hyland BA) V Adam Hession (Monivea)
Dubliner Metcalfe won the 56kg title last year despite not living the life – and he would be stripped when a cannabinoid showed up in a drug test. Now down at 52kg, the noted puncher is in the shape of his career and feels he’ll be too strong for Hession. The Galway 18-year-old is highly touted and in fantastic form, winning the Intermediates and U22 in recent months, and it will be interesting to see if he can make the step up here.
54kg – Women’s Bantamweight
Emma Flannery (Baldoyle) is the only entrant and will receive a walkover.
57kg – Women’s Featherweight
Michaela Walsh (Monkstown Antrim) V Dervla Duffy (Crumlin)
A repeat of last year’s final, Walsh would go on from this to claim Commonwealth silver, European bronze, and beat World champ Alessia Mesiano. One of the best feathers in the world, she is planning a big year but can’t overlook Duffy. The Monaghan veteran has a massive punch, great activity, and comes into the decider having changed up her whole team, switching clubs and bringing on board top S&C and mind guru Tony Quinn.
57kg – Men’s Featherweight
Christian Cekiso (Portlaoise) V Paddy Adamus (Drimnagh)
Both beat Caseys in the semis – uncle and nephew Myles and Tommy respectively. A full-time fighter, Cekiso is highly rated in the game and has a big opportunity here after a number of near misses over the years and has scored a number of good wins over the last 12 months. In Adamus he faces an opponent stepping down from lightweight due to the Olympic changes and one who is physically strong and sharp.
60kg – Women’s Lightweight
Kelly Harrington (St Mary’s Dublin) is the only entrant and will receive a walkover but will box on the night, featuring in an international contest versus Serbian-born Swede Jelena Jelic – who she beat in the Nicolae Linca Multi-Nations last year.
60kg – Men’s Lightweight
Dominic Bradley (Errigal) V David Oliver Joyce (Ballymun)
A repeat of their U22 semi-final last month which was won by Joyce. The cousin of his namesake Olympian has looked incredible at times but is refusing to overlook Derry’s Bradley. Indeed, the Commonwealth Youth Games team captain feels he finished their bout well last month and believes he can pick up where he left off on Saturday night in the second of the non-Olympic classes for men.
63kg – Men’s Light Welterweight
James McGivern (St George’s) V George Bates (St Mary’s Dublin)
The two best lightweights in Ireland have both moved up to chase their Olympic dreams. Belfast’s McGivern can be sensationally slick and is highly touted but the extremely experienced Bates is looking strong at light welter and is always there or thereabouts regardless of who he’s up against. Another one of the six bouts to be televised live on TG4.
64kg – Women’s Light Welterweight
Moira McElligott (St Michael’s Athy) V Amy Broadhurst (Dealgan)
A winner at featherweight back in 2016, Kerry woman McElligott is back here two weights up. Game and physically strong at feather, she faces a momentous task versus Broadhurst. While she is a natural lightweight, and one of the best on the planet at that, the Dundalk southpaw is looking to build experience as well as claim a first Elite title having been beaten by World champ Harrington at 60kg last year.
69kg – Women’s Welterweight
Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan’s) V Gráinne Walsh (Sparticus)
Two aggressive big punchers, this looks to be a guaranteed war. Desmond had great success at middleweight but always looked like she could be even better at welter and, with this class now being added to the Olympics, it looks like a natural move. Walsh is the reigning champion and Best Boxer but has not been happy with her form recently – however, if there was ever a fight to get up for, it’s this.
69kg – Men’s Welterweight
Kieran Molloy (Oughterard) V Patrick Donovan (Our Lady of Lourdes)
A match-up mooted for months, it will finally happen on Saturday. Molloy enjoyed a break-out year in 2018, winning a first Elites and an EU bronze while Donovan has been tipped for Tokyo by many. The Limerick teen has added a bit of spice, too, noting how he has come through the harder side of the draw. Molloy probably slightly stronger, Donovan probably slightly quicker, both incredibly talented, don’t miss it.
75kg – Women’s Middleweight
Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea) V Cheyanne O’Neill (Athlone)
Roscommon’s O’Rourke burst onto the scene last year, winning European U22 silver before becoming the main woman at middleweight for Ireland and performing well at the Worlds. A tall and rangy fighter, she faces Midlands pocket rocket O’Neill who is only temporarily in the class due to a weight mishap. That’s not to say ‘Chaz’ won’t go for it and the sheer size disparity could lead to an awkward contest that may suit her.
75kg – Men’s Middleweight
Gabriel Dossen (Olympic Galway) V Emmet Brennan (Glasnevin)
Dossen is tipped for stardom and has lit up the National Stadium a number of times over the past few months. However, there are question marks over his fitness, with Dossen suffering from a very apparent knee injury last week – but is said to be recovering well. Brennan though is not reading the script and the very experienced 2017 champion is a genuine talent that believes he is too strong for his teen opponent.
80kg – Women’s Light Heavyweight
Leona Houlihan (Crumlin) V Lisa Browne (Aglish)
Having won the 2017 title via knockout, Tipperary titan Houlihan suffered a nightmare 2018, being ruled out with a serious knee injury. She stuck at it, however, and is now back and looking to claim a second title. Mayo’s Browne was a runner-up last year at heavyweight and, now at a lower class, will be confident of doing damage.
80+kg – Women’s Heavyweight
Nell Fox (Rathkeale) is the only entrant and will receive a walkover.
81kg – Men’s Light Heavyweight
Thomas O’Toole (Celtic Eagles) V Tommy Hyde (Mayfield)
One of the TV fights, O’Toole has stepped up from middleweight and is a tricky, rather small, southpaw that will have a gameplan and will most likely look to make things awkward for Corkman Hyde who has an aggressive, pro style. There is a lot of pressure, too, on the young Leesider, with his famous family name garnering him a lot of attention. Both were involved in rather scrappy fights in the semis and it could be the same here.
91kg – Men’s Heavyweight
Tony Browne (St Michael’s Dublin) V Kenny Okungbowa (Athlone)
Having moved up to improve his Olympic chances, Browne turned in the result of the championships when he eliminated reigning champ Kirill Afanasev. Boxing fast and smart, he has settled well at 91kg but Okungbowa is the only man to have beaten him here, winning their Celtic Box Cup final before Browne returned the favour in the Odivelas Box Cup. The giant has finished runner-up thrice before and strongly believes this is his year.
91+kg – Men’s Super Heavyweight
Dean Gardiner (Clonmel) V Martin Keenan (Rathkeale)
A repeat of last year’s final and the infamous 2017 box-off, Gardiner is aiming for another title as he chases his Olympic dream having fallen just short last time – with the pros calling should he lose. Keenan though is small for a super heavyweight, spirited, awkward, and possibly the heaviest puncher in Irish amateur boxing so can never be discounted.