Team captain Darren O’Neill made it two from two for Ireland on day one of the European Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria. Following on from Dean Gardiner’s impressive win this afternoon, O’Neill won a close split decision over Lithuania’s Tadas Tamašauskas in the heavyweight division.
The opening round was a close affair with O’Neill beginning well but the bigger Lithuanian coming on strong towards the end. The second stanza seemed to favour the Paulstown BC fighter who negated his strong opponent and utilised his speed and ring smarts to full effects.
For the final round, a visibly tired Tamašauskas came out like a bull. O’Neill initially proved too elusive but was caught by an absolutely massive shot that stiffened his legs. The Kilkenny man held, but was caught by another huge shot a few seconds later. Somehow, the 29 year old did not go down, and by then the Lithuanian had emptied his tank.
The fight went to the scorecards and while they made for somewhat odd reading (30-27, 29-28, 27-30), O’Neill was the rightful victor.
It was an impressive win for O’Neill over the Baltic fighter who had pedigree, having won bronze in the 2014 EU Championships and bronze in 2013 World University Games.
However, O’Neill faces a much tougher task on Monday evening in the round of 16 when he faces Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko – The #1 seed at the tournament and winner of the silver medal at the 2013 World Championships.