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Aoife O’Rourke reaches final to stay on course for European hat-trick

Aoife O’Rourke stands nine minutes from a European hat-trick.

The Rosscommon middleweight is through to the European final after overcoming Isildar Busra in the semi-final.

O’Rourke hit the high gears in the final round to advance. The 26-year-old from Castlerea was the European middleweight champ in 2019 and 2022 and will get the opportunity for a third successive crown at the weekend.

Olympic-qualified O’Rourke secured a split decision win over Busra in Belgrade. The bout was a repeat of the 2022 European quarter-final, which O’Rourke also won.

O’Rourke has been on a hot steak of victories, including a gold medal winning visit to the Stradja in Sofia in February.

Her Olympic berth was sealed last summer when winning gold at the European Games and she came from behind to thwart the hopes of Isildar.

Having had a bye to the quarter-final, O’Rourke swatted Veronika Nakota aside in her opening contest.

Isildar had won European Junior and Youth titles and was the 2021 World Youth champ so was certainly no slouch.

With a size advantage on O’Rourke, it was Isildar who had the upper hand by the end of the first round.

Crucially, two judges who side with Isildar in the first gave O’Rourke the nod in the second.

For much of the bout, O’Rourke had to stay patient – and it was a win of real experience as she joins Shannon Sweeney in the finals with a chance to hit gold.