Ireland’s premier amateur tournament comes to a conclusion after three weekends of top-class action with the 2021 champions will be crowned at the National Stadium today.
Jake Rapple [bantam], Amy Broadhurst [light] and Aoife O’Rourke [middle] have received walkovers and will pick up titles at their weights without having to throw a punch today.
That leaves 21 titles up for grabs and 42 fighters trading elite leather for ultimate domestic glory.
Such is the prize on offer and such is the talent on display that every fight has meaning, narrative, and the potential to entertain but even on a best versus best night there are some that stand out more than others.
To listen to the most in-depth National Elite preview you’ll find click HERE and tune into our podcast below we list the five fights we are most excited about.
52KG Niamh Early (Ryston, Kildare) v Daina Moorehouse (Enniskerry, Wicklow)
This battle of two extremely talented emerging talents has all the ingredients. Early would appear the favourite considering she has spent the summer in the High-Performance Unit, she was at the European Under 22s, and the fight plays out in a weight class she is has operated closer to. However, Moorehouse, who moves up two weights to compete in her first 52kg bout, is a reigning Elite champ, comes into the fight with something to prove to the Irish selectors, and has been training full time in Enniskerry with victory in mind. One of many finals that could kick start a very interesting Olympic rivalry, it’s not to be missed.
60KG John Paul Hale (Star, Antrim) v Dominic Bradley (Emerald, Antrim)
The men’s lightweight final is an intriguing all-Ulster fight. Again it’s two highly rated if not extremely well-known potential stars of the future meeting in the first final of the new Olympic cycle. Derry’s Bradley is well-rated within the High-Performance unit and is a tricky operator, while strong puncher and Ulster champ Hale has Mary Peters grant backing and is an Irish-boxing.com Fight of the Year winner. There is a boxer versus fighter element to it and it looks set to be an interesting clash of styles.
67KG Wayne Kelly (Ballynacargy, Westmeath) v Eugene McKeever (Holy Family, Louth)
Whoever emerges victorious from this final will have successfully navigated one of the more difficult paths to the top. The 67kg weight class wasn’t just one of the more populated weights of the tournament it was also one of the more talent-packed. Both have had to come through relatively tough fights to get to this stage and the eventual winner will have to defeat another quality fighter to get his hand raised. Kelly, now fighting out of his father’s gym in Ballynacargy, was a genuine Tokyo hopeful and World Championships participant. However, double Ulster champ McKeever is the naturally the bigger man [with Kelly moving up from 63kg] and is a talent in his own right.
70KG Lisa O’Rourke (Castlerea, Roscommon) v Evelyn Igharo (Clann Naofa, Louth)
There is mouthwatering and then there is Lisa O’Rourke vs Evelyn Igharo. This is two highly thought-of emerging talents with Paris 2024 aspirations starting a senior rivalry on the biggest domestic platform there is. O’Rourke was away in Tokyo training camp sparring her sister Aoife, has multiple European underage medals, and the backing of the High Performance. Igharo is similar in terms being an underage European medallist and she has also proven herself at senior level, winning a National Elite title at 64kg, and would be in the Irish pound for pound biggest puncher rankings. How this power translates up two weight divisions will be fascinating to see.
80KG Tommy Hyde (St.Michaels Athy, Kildare) v Kelyn Cassidy (Saviours Crystal, Waterford)
The Munster showdown between Cork’s Hyde and Waterford’s Kelyn Cassidy intrigues. Cassidy can be awkward as hell and has a bout under his belt having beaten Stuart Edwards but Hyde is a strong fighter. Cork’s Hyde was seen as a fighter ready to replace Joe Ward as Ireland’s main man at the weight but picking up a senior title hasn’t proved straightforward with Thomas O’Toole beating him in his first Elite final and the Emmet Brennan fairytale then taking over. He will feel is time is now but Cassidy will have gatecrashing aspirations and has proved himself a tricky awkward customer who commands respect within Irish boxing having been a frequent sparring partner of Joe Ward over the past year.