It’s male semi-final night at the home of Irish boxing tonight.
36 fighters will be hoping to secure a National Elite Championship finals night spot.
With so much at stake all 18 fights have the potential to be entertaining but we have chosen five we think could stand out.
57kg Adam Hession (Monivea) V Paul Loonam (St Carthages)
Adam Hession versus Paul Loonam has the potential to be tight, tense and explosively entertaining – and that’s according to the fighters.
It’s fantasy final four for the neutral as two talented feathers go to battle for a decider slot in a genuine 50-50.
Although both are very young there is a somewhat rising star versus stalwart feel to the meeting of two European under-22 medal winners. This is Loonam’s first Elite rodeo while Hession has tamed the bull twice, claiming Irish Elite titles in 2019 and 2021.
63.5kg John Paul Hale (Star A) V Dean Clancy (Sean McDermott)
One of the big names in one of the stacked male weight classes will be no more come Friday.
JP Hale and Dean Clancy is a fight worthy of any finals night but comes 24 hours before, showing the depth at 63.5kg.
Clancy is a three-time European underage silver medallist and Youth Olympian, the Sligo native is also an Elite Champion having won the featherweight crown in 2019, defeating Hale along the way.
Hale has become an established Irish international over the last 18 months and is a two-time Ulster Champion with Paris ambitions.
An intriguing battle awaits.
67kg Wayne Kelly (Ballynacargy) V Eugene McKeever (Holy Family L)
There is something beautifully old-school about this pairing. Two faces regularly seen in the later stages of the Elites facing off in a hard-to-call battle of experienced operators.
It’s a repeat of the 2021 final, which McKeever won to launch himself onto the international scene. The Holy Family fighter has since appeared in the European Championships and Commonwealth Games and is the man to beat as a result.
That’s a status previously held by the talented Kelly, who fights out of his father’s Ballynacargy club, and one he will want back.
71kg Aidan Walsh (Emerald A) V Dean Walsh (St Ibars/Josephs)
The only way this fight could be more eye-catching is if these Walshs were actually related.
Having made a successful return to the National Elites and the famous National Stadium stage last week, Dean Walsh faces the man that extinguished his Olympic hopes back in 2019 in what he hopes will be the first of two fights this weekend.
Indeed, Aidan Walsh more than just killed the dream, he took it and ran with it all the way to the Tokyo podium.
One of the more storied fighters in this years Elites, and a fighter whose rivalry with Ray Moylette may just be the last great Irish amateur rivalry, is on the Olympic trail again and will be looking to write another chapter in his redemption story tonight.
However, he comes up against an Olympic medal winner and Commonwealth Games champion, who is one of the best in the world at the weight. Not to mention the Belfast fighter has grown in stature, confidence, and even ability since they last fought four years ago.
75kg Christopher O’Reilly (Holy Family L) V Gavin Rafferty (Dublin Docklands)
Probably not a pairing fight followers’ eyes are drawn to instantly but there is something typically Irish amateur boxing about this clash.
Christopher O’Reilly versus Gavin Rafferty is a gritty good-for-the-soul battle that unlike other fights tonight has no Paris bearing but still means a lot to the fighters and their clubs.
It’s a rematch of the Senior [Intermediate] final won by the Dublin Dockland’s fighter via split decision. There is also a derby feel to the bout with the pair living just 20 minutes apart, O’Reilly hailing from Balbriggan and Rafferty a Duleek native.
The other semi at the weight is an interesting all-teen clash between Eoghin Lavin of Ballyhaunis and Joshua Olaniyan of Jobstown.