The National Elite Championships return with a bang tonight.
Semi-final places in one of the strongest tournaments in recent years are up for grabs at the National Stadium on the South Circular Road.
There are plenty of quality fights to take in but we’ve picked five that we feel standout for differing reasons.
50kg Daina Moorehouse (Enniskerry) V Shannon Sweeney (St Annes)
If you needed proof this year’s National Elite Championships have the potential to be special the fact the tournament gloves off with the meeting of Daina Moorehouse and Shannon Sweeney is it.
The first fight of the entire 2023 installment is a mouthwatering 50-50 50kg clash in what will be a keenly contested weight class.
Wicklow’s Daina Moorehouse is an extremely decorated underage talent who has made senior moves in recent years.
The extremely talented Edenderry starlet’s two Elite Championship victories suggest she has arrived and she goes into the tournament ready to make a Paris plea.
48kg European bronze medal winner, Sweeney has moved up to light flyweight for these championships and makes the trip to the National Stadium as one of the most improved Irish fighters of the last 12 months.
The St Anne’s talent has refined her raw talent and found her feet domestically and at international level over the last year. Like Moorehouse and the likes of Carly McNaul, Caitlin Fryers and Niamh Early, Sweeney has been backed to win the championship outright in a division where winning a single fight will require all any of the combative to be at their best.
The Wicklow – Mayo meeting is the perfect way to start the championships and the perfect curtain-raiser for one of the most competitive divisions.
57kg Jordan Smith (Holy Family L) V Myles Casey (St Francis)
Considering it’s an Olympic weight class 57kg was always going to attract a host of entrants. All the top talents in and around the division were expected to compete and Dylan Eagleson aside that turned out to be the case. One name that stood out in a young field was a champion of years past.
Myles Casey, who represented Ireland at the 2015 European Games, adds a new and interesting dimension to the division and his first competitive fight since he lost to Barry McReynolds in 2019 is one the fight fraternity will look out for tonight.
The younger brother of former European super bantamweight champion, Willie ‘Big Bang’ Casey, doesn’t come back completely out of the blue. The St Francis boxer has been sparring regularly over the last few years and was one of the main sparring partners for Katie Taylor ahead of her historic fight with Amanda Serrano.
Casey won’t get a warm welcome back. Jordan Smith is a quality operator in his own right with Under-22 success on his resume and has experience at this level.
63.5kg Brandon McCarthy (St Michaels) V Anthony Malanaphy (Erne)
Brandon McCarthy has NEVER lost an Irish Championships fight! The Kilkenny fighter has reigned domestically since his childhood.
The St Michaels Athy talent doesn’t know what it’s like to taste defeat to Irish opposition in a Nationals at any grade and has collected 15 Irish titles from Boy1 right up to Senior Elite level.
That fact alone makes him a must-watch anytime he steps through the ropes at the first purpose-built boxing stadium in the world.
Trying to end the streak in another competitive will be Anthony Malanaphy of Erne, an Intermediate and Ulster Championship finalist last year.
63.5kg Daryl Clarke (Monkstown A) V John Paul Hale (Star A)
This intriguing clash pits the man of the moment against a fighter who many backed to have big moments when he burst onto the scene in 2020.
Star man Hale has established himself as an International of note in recent years competing at the World and European Championships as well as the Commonwealth Games.
The Belfast fighter, alongside Brandon McCarthy and Adam Hession, is seen as one of three with real potential to win the division outright over the next two weekends.
However, he does face a tricky quarter-final against Clarke, who caught the eye en route to Ulster title success in 2020.
The Monkstown fighter beat Ryan Lavery, Caoimhin Ferguson and then the fancied Jack McGivern to claim the prestigious provincial title in 2020.
He hasn’t been seen much since but returns in an intriguing fight with Hale. James McDonagh of St Pauls Waterford versus Under-22 European medal winner Dean Clancy is another fight to watch out for at the weight.
71kg Igor Blazhenko (Liberty) V Dean Walsh (St Ibars/Josephs)
Dean Walsh competes at the National Stadium for the first time since he lost to Aidan Walsh in the 2019 National Elite quarter-finals.
The Wexford man, who has enjoyed some famous wins at the home of Irish boxing and was an international of note, flirted with going pro but is now back and planning a Paris push.
He enjoyed success in a number of box cups late last year and is said to be in solid form, it will be interesting for most to see just where he is at and if he is a genuine threat to Olympic medal winner Aidan Walsh’s status as #1.
The St Ibars light middle takes on Igor Blazhenko of Liberty for the fight to challenge the Olympian in next Saturday’s semi final.