The National Under-22 Championships kick off tomorrow evening in Dublin.
The tournament has been revived as part of a Europe-wide strategy, echoed in sentiment by the IABA, to create a better way to transition from underage to adult boxing.
Some of Ireland’s most decorated names, both at national and international level, have signed up for the tournament which look to be the perfect way to kick off a busy year of boxing.
For men there is the added benefit and incentive of the European Under-22 Championships which take place in Romania in March, and the winners of this month’s championships are likely to be chosen for the Irish squad.
Looking ahead to this month’s tournament, Irish-Boxing.com have done up a brief run-through of the field.
Men’s Light Flyweight – 49kg
Illies GG boxer Darryl Moran, a semi finalist in the last Senior Elites, will fancy his chances at light flyweight. Here he will face competition from Holy Family’s reigning Senior (Intermediate) champ Conor Kearney and Urlingford’s Jordan Leahy, who took top prize at Youth level in last year’s Celtic Box Cup,
Men’s Flyweight – 52kg
Under-18 light flyweight champion and World Youth Championships participant Jordan Moore makes the step up to 52kg as he leaves the underage scene. The Glasnevin stylist is one of the big names at the weight which also includes reigning Senior (Intermediate) champ Thomas McCarthy, the experienced Leigh Moran (brother of Darryl), Mark Corcoran of Corinthians who won the 2015 Youth 2s up at 54kg, and Jason McKay of Holy Family, a semi finalist at the last Senior Elites.
Men’s Bantamweight – 56kg
Cherry Orchard’s Jack Kelly will be gunning for revenge against decorated underage star James McGivern, whom he lost out to in an inter-county bout last weekend, while Senior (Intermediate) runner-up Shane Flavin of Paulstown will also fancy his chances of glory.
Men’s Lightweight – 60kg
A packed weight. Highly-rated 2013 European Youth gold medalist Gary Cully is perhaps the stand-out name, while 2015 European flyweight bronze medalist Terry McEntee makes another step-up in weight for the competition. 2015 Youth light flyweight runner-up Martin Delaney has move up through the weights and is joined by his Olympic BC team-mate Martin Sammon. Also featuring are Dubliners Nathan Fleet (Crumlin) and recent Senior (Intermediate) semi-finalist Stephen Lockhart (Baldoyle), as well as Mullingar Elite’s Anthony Dinnegan and Stephen Mooney of St Mary’s Daingean.
Men’s Light Welterweight – 64kg
The most populated class at the entire Championships. Holy Trinity’s Bernaldo Marime, a participant for Mozambique at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, features, as does the big-punching James Cleary – who narrowly lost out to champion Dean Walsh at the last Elite Seniors. The hugely-experienced Keith Flavin will fancy his chances, while James Cahill of St Teresa’s makes the step down from welter as he leaves the underage ranks and Dungloe’s Matthew McCole makes the step up. Gleann’s Caoimhin Ferguson has been described as one to watch as has Evan Fitzgerald of Esker. Also featuring are Ulster Intermediate champion Mosa Kambule, Darndale’s Lee Harris, Tommy Boyd of Thurles, experienced fighters like Jack Phelan and Casey Berry, and Senior (Intermediate) semi finalist Joseph Kelly of St Canices.
Men’s Welterweight – 69kg
Recent Senior (Intermediate) semi finalists John Maughan and Dan Houlihan will both have their eyes on the prize. As will Letterkenny’s Patrick McConigley, Martin Stokes of Darndale, Esker’s Luke McGuire, and John Joe Nevin of Mullingar (no, not that one).
Men’s Middleweight – 75kg
Triple European gold medalist and World Youth bronze winner Michael Nevin of Laois will be the man to beat. Waterford’s Rhys Moran, who was unable to defend the U-18 title won by Nevin due to injury, will fancy his chances, while fellow Déise puncher Kelyn Cassidy impressed at the Senior (Intermediates) where he finished runner-up. Thomas O’Toole of the Celtic Eagles club felt he was hard done by to lose in the Senior (Intermediate) welterweight final, and has moved up in weight. Dylan Devine has stepped down from light heavy for the tournament, while Sean McGuirk has gone the other day. Rounding out the field are Martin Collins (Darndale), Sean Deverill (Grangecon), and James McCarthy (Fermoy).
Men’s Light Heavyweight – 81kg
The hugely-experienced Dubliner Tony Browne is one of the big names here, while young gun Brian Kennedy will be looking to build on his recent Senior (Intermediate) title. Wayne Rafferty of St Cianan’s has stepped down from heavyweight as he leaves the underage ranks. Also gunning for the title are are Johnstown’s Pierce Sherry, Tom Kearney of Townland and Dunboyne’s Simon Bungu.
Men’s Heavyweight – 91kg
A massively exciting weight. Cormac Long will want to add to his Senior (Intermediate) title, and his Rathkeale team mate Cian O’Shaughnessy will also be aiming to make an impact. Under-18 champion and World Youths participant Kevin Sheehy makes the step up from the underage ranks and will be one to watch, as will the experienced Geoffrey Kavanagh from Glasnevin who impressed at short-notice in the Ireland v Russia Elite test international during the Summer. Also in the hunt for glory are Terry O’Toole (Enniskerry), Damien Boyle (Sean McDermot), and Celtic Box Cup Senior B champ Pearse McDonnell (Gleann)
Men’s Super Heavyweight – +91kg
It’s a straight final for the big men, with Senior Elite runner-up Thomas Carty of Glasnevin set to face Crumlin’s John McDonald in an old-fashioned Dublin derby.
Women’s Light Flyweight – 48kg
Under-18 champion Shannon Sweeney of St Anne’s will look to make the step up from underage level against familiar foe Ciara Anderson (Twin Towns) whom she defeated via split decision twice in 2015.
Women’s Flyweight – 51kg
Baldoyle’s Senior (Intermediate) champion Emma Flannery will aim to claim more honours when she takes on Navan’s Shauna Blaney, younger sister of pro prospect Chris.
Women’s Bantamweight – 54kg
Gilford’s Clodagh McComiskey is the sole entry at this weight.
Women’s Featherweight – 57kg
Senior (Intermediate) runner-up Nicole Moorehouse intends to step down two weights for the tournament and is joined at feather by Tom Power’s Tiegen Russell.
Women’s Lightweight – 60kg
Decorated underage star Amy Broadhurst (Dealgan) is the sole entry at this weight.
Women’s Light Welterweight – 64kg
Youth Olympic silver medalist Ciara Ginty will hope to add to her recently-won Senior (Intermediate) title. In her way will be Athlone’s European Youth silver medalist and Senior Elite runner-up Cheyanne O’Neill.
Women’s Welterweight – 69kg
2016 break-out star Gráinne Walsh, who reached quarter finals at both the World and European Championships, is up against Samantha O’Grady of St Michael’s New Ross.
Women’s Middleweight – 75kg
European and World Universities bronze medalist Christina Desmond is the sole entry at this weight.
Women’s Light Heavyweight – 81kg
Under-18 champ Nell Fox is the sole entry at this weight.
Women’s Heavyweight – +81kg
Senior (Elite) runner-up Maeve McCarron is the sole entry at this weight.
Irish-Boxing.com would like to wish all participants at the Under-22s, and the National Novices, the very best of luck.
Joe O’Neill and Gavan Casey look ahead to 2017 in episode 1 of The Irish Boxing Show