With all focus – both good and bad – on the National Elite Championships last Friday night, one feel-good story may have slipped under the radar.
The ‘Matthew McCole (Dungloe/Illies)’ is a name familiar to many – although few would know his face.
The Donegal welterweight is a frequent entrant into Irish and Ulster championships but always seems to fall short.
The likes of Sean McComb, Wayne Kelly, and Pierce O’Leary have gotten in the way but McCole finally made his breakthrough earlier this month.
The Rosses fighter won the National Senior [Intermediate] title earlier this month, defeating Martin Sammon in the decider and being crowned Boxer of the Championships in the process.
It was a first Irish title at any age for McCole who was emotional afterwards.
“I’m delighted to finally get over the line, it’s been a long time coming,” the relieved southpaw told Irish-Boxing.com.
“I’m happy out, I’ll just keep going. It took me six [attempts] to win the Ulsters, it’s only taken me four here so that’s an improvement!”
“The first one’s the hardest, sure, so I’ll keep going.”
In the end, the fight itself was a rather tame one, with McCole the clear winner.
“It was scrappy, that’s not the way I wanted to win but I didn’t care as long as I won,” he smiled.
“It’s probably the worst fight out of the four fights I’ve had. It came down to who wanted it more and I wasn’t going to let it go.”
“It was about biting on the gumshield and keeping throwing when you can’t throw. I wasn’t coming out of there with stuff left in me.”
It was a special moment for McCole, one of the committed fighters around.
He notes how “I train all the time, you have to. It’s easier to stay in shape than get in shape.”
“I’ve been boxing since I was seven or eight, Boy 1. My brother [Mark] and sister [Niamh], when they were wee, they were winning everything and I wasn’t winning anything but I stuck it out and I got the main one!”
The result caused jubilation at the National Stadium from his family in clubmates and McCole was delighted for his supporters – one in particular.
“My mum and sister were here and my girlfriend was here.”
“My dad was here too – well, he wasn’t here, but I know he was here with me. He’s in hospital but this was what he wanted, that was for him. He’s been with me every step of the way.”