Aoife O’Rourke gets European title defence off to a perfect start

Aoife O’Rourke got her defence of her European title off to a perfect start in Budva, Montenegro this afternoon.

The Castlerea native was completely dominant against Greek champion Vasiliki Stavridou, as she impressed her way into the European Championship quarterfinals.

The 2019 gold medal winner lay down an early marker with a sensational performance and a wide points win.

So dominant was the Olympic Galway BC middleweight that she won one round 10-8 across the board and another by the same score on four of the five cards to secure an eye-catching 30-24- 30-25, 30-24, 30-25, 30-26 points win.

The win now means O’Rourke is one win away from a second European Championship medal, as she joins Kacci Rock, Kellie Harrington, Carly McNaul and Michaela Walsh in the last eight.

O’Rourke boxed beautifully off the back foot against a pile-forward foe in the first. She danced around the ring and stung with solid jabs and powerful straight right hands.

Such was her dominance she won the round across the board with one judge feeling she was so on top she deserved a 10-8 round.

The Roscommon Olympian held her feet a little more in the second but it was a similar story, she continued to walk Stavridou onto hurtful shots with the straight right hand being particularly effective.

As the Greek began to wilt, feeling the pace and the power, the older of the two fighting O’Rourke sisters was able to show more of her ability, bringing in combinations and some bodywork. The third was equally as dominant with Stavridou being handed a standing eight as O’Rourke continued to land hurtful right hands.

Niamh Fay’s tournament ended just minutes earlier as she lost to Ukrainian Alexandria Kovalchuk. A standing eight in the first round and a point deduction in the second didn’t help the young Dub’s cause in a competitive and entertaining fight.

As per usual Fay started fast and let leather fly from the off. She forced her opponent back and set a pace the Ukrainian didn’t want to work at. It is a style that means Fay will take shots and Kovalchuk was skilled enough to pick some clean, one solid enough to force the referee to give the Swords native a standing eight. Still Fay did enough to win the round on two of the five judges score cards.

The approach was refined rather than altered in the second stanza. The Ballyboughal fighter still let punches go with no thought for her tank down the line and worked body and head relentlessly. However, she slipped her way and seemed to be enjoying more success as a result. To her credit the Ukranian matched the pace and it was Fay who began to tire. A point deduction then left the Irish fighter needing a stoppage in the last round to ensure she progressed.

The European U22 gold medal winner went for it but the Kovalchuk gave as good as she got made the final bell and made it to the quarter-final.

Team Ireland Squad

48kg: Shannon Sweeney, St. Anne’s, Mayo

50kg: Caitlin Fryers, Immaculata BC, Belfast

52kg: Carly McNaul, Ormeau Road BC, Belfast

54kg: Niamh Fay, Phoenix of Ballyboughal BC, Dublin

57kg: Michaela Walsh, Emerald BC, Belfast

60kg: Kellie Harrington, St. Mary’s BC, Dublin

63kg: Amy Broadhurst, St. Bronagh’s ABC, Newry

66kg: Kaci Rock, Enniskerry BC, Wicklow

70kg: Christina Desmond, Dungarvan BC/Garda BC

75kg: Aoife O’Rourke, Olympic BC, Galway

Coaches:

Zauri Antia

John Conlan

Dmitrij Dmitruk

Eoin Pluck

Physio

Rob Tuomey.

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