Rusty Harrington happy with International opportunity after “frustrating” lack of Irish foes


Among all the finals tonight at the National Stadium there is one international contest.

Kelly Harrington has added another National Elite title to her collection without throwing a punch but she gets to trade leather on finals night regardless, going up against Serbian-born Swede Jelena Jelic.

The Dublin lightweight is a bit disappointed but is happy that she will get to fight for the first time since winning World Championships gold last November – and will do so in front of a full house and live on TG4.

Harrington had hoped for some Irish competition but, with European U22 champion and last year’s runner-up Amy Broadhurst taking a step back and a step up to light welterweight to build experience ahead of the 2024 Olympics, she has been left without a domestic dance partner.

Looking further, 2017 runner-up Shauna O’Keefe has taken some time out, while there were no lightweight entries at all in the last Intermediate championships.

Harrington explained to Irish-Boxing.com how “I thought I was going to have a National final. At the weigh-in I was waiting, I was waiting until two o’clock thinking ‘someone is going to weigh-in, someone is definitely going to weigh-in’.”

“No one weighed in and I wasn’t sure where we stood but we had been talking, myself and Noel [Burke, coach], saying that we wanted to bring someone in. We put it to the association and they were like ‘yeah, that’s fine’.”

“I don’t know how many more Nationals I’m going to be doing after this. We’ll see what way the qualifications go. It might be the last time I do 60kg in the Nationals.”

“It’s frustrating in the sense that I need to get rid of the cobwebs, I need fights. Luckily enough they got someone in for me.”

She has already beaten Jelic recently, at the Nicolae Linca multi-nations, but the Balkan offers an experienced and International-classfoe

Sharpness is crucial for the Northsider who heads into 2019 as World #1 with three major tournaments on the schedule – the European Games, the European Championships, and World Championships which will likely also be a Tokyo Olympic qualifier.

Harrington noted that “that’s exactly why I wanted to box. I don’t want to be heading into a tournament in April without having had a fight since November.”

“I’m a bit rusty at the moment, I’m definitely rusty. I just want to get the rust out of the way, get the cobwebs off, and get myself ready for the next tournament.”

Getting to fight on the showpiece event of the Irish boxing calendar is important for the Dubliner, especially as she again shares the bill with St Mary’s clubmate George Bates.

Harrington described how “I’m just delighted that I’m getting to box on the night, especially with George also fighting. The atmosphere is brilliant, everyone is buzzing in the club.”

“What more could you want? Boxing on finals night alongside your clubmate. The Nationals are great, it’s the best time to box because the Stadium is packed, the place does be buzzing. I’m looking forward to it.”

It’s a special tournament for Harrington who will be picking up a ninth Irish Elite title.

Totally immersed in the sport, the 29-year-old believes there is a rising tide and noted that “in a few more years, I cannot wait to sit back in the Stadium and watch those girls, when I don’t have any pressure on myself.”

“It’s going to be fantastic, we’ve so many girls coming through from the younger ages right through.”

“The European and Worlds medals are already coming through and I’m so glad I’m seeing it now and can follow their progression.”

“I’ll be front row, eating my hotdogs and drinking my tea!”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: [email protected]