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A look back at some of the memorable Belfast Dublin derbies

It’s a bold statement, not unsurprisingly so however, as it comes from one of Irish boxing’s better fight builders at present, but Darragh Foley’s suggestion that his clash with Tyrone McKenna this Friday will be the best Dublin versus Belfast derby in the last 30 years has got people reminiscing.

The fact most pro Irish fight fans look at Irish boxing as a whole rather and see the fighters as Irish sporting figures rather than punchers that belong to one city or county the rivalry isn’t as tribal as the ones seen in GAA or soccer, but it has thrown up some brilliant fights over the years.

It can be argued the struggles in Dublin in recent years has added to the sense of occasion surrounding any bouts between the cities – with the a hurting capital city keen to show its wares against Ireland’s second city and undoubted boxing capital.

Yet the Belfast v Dublin narrative isn’t generally as strong as the All-Irish narrative ahead of domestic dust-ups bouts.

Nevertheless, match-ups between the cities have entertained over the years and a McKenna v Foley clash certainly has the ingredients to serve up a tasty helping for war-hungry fight fans.

Prompted by the Sydney-based Blanch boxer’s recent comments we decided to look back at some recent Dublin v Belfast bouts that have played out in the pros.

Eddie Hyland v Kevin O’Hara
The current Irish-Boxing.com Coach of the Year is more often than not requesting his stable of fighters be more guile than guts, but may hope they listen to him now rather than watch him fight back in the day.

The Tallaght man’s battle with Belfast’s Kevin O’Hara was anything but a boxing skills masterclass as the two went toe to toe for the Irish title in the National Stadium back in 2008.

The older of the three boxing brothers won on a 99-96 scorecard in a fight that saw both win the hearts of fans.

Hyland may not have reached the heights of his World and European title challenging brothers Patrick and Paulie, whilst John Breen often predicts a more dedicated O’Hara could have enjoyed more fight success, but still both will be fondly remembered for the fight they served up during a time when domestic match-ups were rare.

James Tennyson v Declan Geraghty

Not quite the 10 rounds of action as when Hyland and O’Hara fought for the same Irish title some seven years beforehand, but one of the most entertaining six rounds of any Belfast Dublin bash.

A complete contrast of styles and a fight that saw both fighters make true their ring monikers.

‘Pretty Boy’ Geraghty was possibly as slick as he has ever been in a pro ring and showed flashes of brilliance if not genius, whilst recent world title challenger Tennyson was as patient, precise and lethal as anyone else that ever carried ‘The Assassin’ label.

Tyrone McKenna v Dubs
One half of the ESPN+ broadcast main event that sparked a look back at some battles between the cities certainly isn’t a Belfast v Dublin virgin. Indeed, Tyrone McKenna is quite the Lothario when it comes to the rivalry.

Another good talker and fight builder, McKenna has broken two Dublin duck eggs and rejoiced in doing so. The rangy southpaw, who was twice scheduled to fight Crumlin’s Phillip Sutcliffe Jr, stopped both Sean Creag and Jake Hanney.

The back to back wins from November 2016 and March of 2017 were not quite classics, but entertaining affairs nonetheless. What they did most was provide real excitement in the build up and add huge value to the undercards they appeared on. They also helped ‘The Mighty Celt’ pick up his first title, significantly increase his profile and paved the way for the next step.

Steve Collins v Sam Storey
When you think back on the careers of two of Ireland’s most respected fighters the name Chris Eubank might jump to your mind first.

A fight between Steve Collins and Sam Storey would be massive in today’s climate, but whilst both are famed for the fights with Chris Eubank Jr (among many, manyother things), most forget the pair traded leather and did so for a title.

Eight fights into both middleweight’s careers and back in 1988 the pair fought for the Irish title which Storey held following a win over Rocky McGran.

Collins went on to win a unanimous points decision at the Boston Garden the day after St Patrick’s Day. The Celtic Warrior would remain unbeaten for the next two years up and until he made Mike ‘The Body Snatcher’ McCallum promise never to face Irish opposition again.

Storey bounced back and defeated Tony Burke for the British title the following year.

Ciaran Healy v Brendan Fitzpatrick
Ciaran Healy had one of those nights were he showed he was more than just a journeyman in Dublin back in 2011.  On the back of winning the Irish light heavyweight title against John Waldron in Mayo and an impressive display against Frank Haroche Healy was in the National Stadium as an opponent for then unbeaten prospect Brendan Fitzpatrick.

It was a bout down the card and not built in the same manner the more recent Dublin v Belfast bouts have been.

Healy was meant to provide a springboard for the Dub to progress to bigger things, but not for the first time in his career he didn’t read the script.

The fighter, who ended up with 22 defeats on his fight CV, and recorded a massive knockout win his second in successive all-Irish fights.

Anthony Fitzgerald v Ciaran Healy 
Healy wasn’t able to upset Anthony Fitzgerald when he fought ‘The Pride of Dublin’ for the Irish super middleweight title a year earlier.

The Belfast man took the fight a couple of days notice and gave a good account of himself only to lose on points to the then Dolphil Promotions fighter.

There were some ringside who argued the decision should have went the other way, including a very vocal Martin Rogan, but the Dubliner got the nod in an RTÉ-broadcast fight.

Marco McCullough v Declan Geraghty
This one played out last month the same Ulster Hall venue as Foley v McKenna does this weekend and didn’t fail to entertain.

McCullough claimed victory via a brilliant knockout punch, easily the best he landed in his career.

Somewhat surprisingly there was more tension and smack talk ahead of this one than has proceeded this Friday’s derby, although with so much on the line – defeat looked set to damage the losers career significantly- maybe that tension was understandable.

Geraghty had started his second Dublin Belfast fight quite well and looked set to be finding real rhythm only to be stopped in the third round.

The Belfast half of the fight teed up a perfect right hand and landed flush to end the fight in his favour and breathe real life into his career.


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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com