National Elite Senior Championships 2017 – FINALS PREVIEW

16 Irish champions will be decided in the ring tomorrow night (Friday, February 17th) at the National Stadium as the Senior Elite Championships reach their dramatic conclusion.

It’s a year of transition as the Tokyo Olympic cycle begins, but there are still plenty of familiar faces mixed in with a bevvy of young talent making the step up.

Boxing starts at 7:30pm sharp on the South Circular Road

Tickets available through Sally +35314533371
Ringside €40
Angles €30
Gallery €25
Children (U14) Gallery €10

Below, Irish-Boxing.com look ahead to all the bouts.

49kg Darryl Moran (Illies GG) V Blaine Dobbins (St Josephs Derry)
Semi finalist last time, Moran has received a bye to the final here. The powerful Donegal boxer was hugely impressive winning the Under-22 championships last month. Dobbins edged his semi final against Connor Jordan on Friday, and the experienced Derry man will be sharper for decider. Both are familiar with each other from sparring, and it promises to be one of many close contests on the night.

52kg Brendan Irvine (St Pauls Antrim) V TJ Waite (Ormeau Road)
Rio Olympian Irvine is filling into flyweight nicely, and certainly seems physically stronger than last time. He defeated TJ Waite in an entertaining contest at the weekend. The St Paul’s fighter will be a heavy favourite, but Mayfield teen McCarthy is supremely confident following his Intermediate title-winning exploits last November and a narrow win over the experienced Adam Courtney in the semis. A backfoot boxer usually, if the quick-handed McCarthy can edge the opening round we could be in for an interesting contest.

56kg Kurt Walker (Canal) V Stevie McKenna (Old School)
Lisburn’s Walker is going for his hat-trick at these championships and eased to a win over 2015 flyweight runner-up Metcalfe at the weekend. McKenna has moved up two weights since winning the light flyweight title last time and is a rapidly improving fighter, defeating last year’s runner up Myles Casey in the semis. Walker is a sensational counter puncher, while McKenna showed this side of his game last week, and it will be interesting to see what tactics both choose on the night. Will the longer McKenna revert to his usual high-pressure style? Will Walker attempt to counter punch, or come forward like he predicted?

60kg George Bates (St Marys Tallaght) V Patrick Mongan (Olympic Galway)
It’s a third final for Tallaght’s Bates who had a good win over Gary McKenna in the semis. A well rounded boxer, he will have to repel the advances of the 2014 Intermediate champ Patrick Mongan, a relentless pressure fighter who is undergoing a revival in the sport aged 28.

64kg Sean McComb (Holy Trinity) V Wayne Kelly (Ballynacargy)
Belfast’s McComb scored a solid, if unspectacular, win over Patrick Linehan in the semis. The rangey southpaw feels he has another three or four gears to go to, and the European Games bronze medalist will need at least some of them to get past Westmeath’s Kelly. The Ballynacargy boxer gave one of the most complete performances of the weekend against McComb’s club mate Bernaldo Marime and will bring with him a huge crowd to the Stadium.

69kg Dean Walsh (St Ibars) V Brett McGinty (Oakleaf)
European bronze medalist Walsh has stepped up to welter in search of his fourth consecutive Irish title, and has scored solid wins over IATBA champ Mark McCole and Tyrone underage star Tiernan Bradley. McGinty has settled right into the Elite ranks and the Commonwealth Youth silver medalist is as strong as a baby elephant, defeating Ross Boyle and Peter Carr en-route to the final. Both fighters are promising war and, if this plays out, we could have a fight of the night on our hands.

75kg Emmett Brennan (Glasnevin) V Stephen Broadhurst (Dealgan)
Dubliner Brennan eliminated pre-tournament favourite John Joyce in the quarters before climbing off the canvas to edge Fearghus Quinn in the semi finals by the narrowest of margins. Long Louth boxer Broadhurst goes into his second Senior final following wins over David Bicevas and Caoimhin Hynes. It will be a classic clash of styles to see if Brennan’s pressure can overcome the considerable range and jab of Broadhurst.

81kg Joe Ward (Moate) V Tony Browne (St Marys Inchicore)
Big Joe showed plenty against Michael Frayne in the semis, dropping and cutting his opponent. However, the Rio Olympian did not seem to enjoy the constant pressure brought by the Dubliner. If the super fit, pro-styled Browne can bring the aggression he showed in the early stages of his semi with Sean Allen he could make it uncomfortable for the double European gold medalist.

91kg Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) V Ken Okungbowa (Athlone)
Kilkenny veteran O’Neill is going for one more year and a seventh Senior title as he looks to bow out with a big 2017. Here he got up and running with a semi final win over John Joe McDonagh, and now the London Olympian faces a repeat of the bloody 2015 final. Okungbowa has improved his boxing skill and technique massively in the past two years, as he exhibited against Cormac Long, however most will come off second best with O’Neill in a battle of skills. It would therefore seem likely that the Athlone boxer will aim to use his strength once again, although expect to see a few more tricks. O’Neill on the other hand is physically stronger than last time too. It’s going to be very close, and it wont be as simple as skill v strength.

91+kg Thomas Carty (Glasnevin) V Martin Keenan (Rathkeale)
The fast-talking, hard-hitting Dubliner is a venomous counter-puncher and may hold the physical advantages over Ennis big man Keenan. The Rathkeale boxer has promised to up his work rate for this weekend following a close win over Dee Sullivan in the semis and, while he possesses plenty of boxing talent, he may seek to draw Carty into a close quarters battle.

48kg Shannon Sweeney (St Annes Westport) V Kristina O’Hara (St John Bosco)
2015 flyweight runner-up Kristina O’Hara looked mightily impressive in her semi final with Intermediate champion Carol Coughlan. Sweeney has received a bye and will be aiming to add the lite title to the Under-18 and Under-22 crowns she has claimed in the past few months.

57kg Moira McElligott (St Michaels Athy) v Dervla Duffy (Mulhuddart)
Duffy has moved up from bantamweight, where she won the last Elite championships, and defeated Under-22 runner-up Tiegan Russell. Now she challenged good friend, and reigning champion, Moira McElligott. The Kerry southpaw has suffered from illness in the build up to the championships, but still accounted for Intermediate champ Amanda Coughlan in the semis and will be hoping things come together in the final.

60kg Shauna O’Keeffe (Clonmel) V Kelly Harrington (Glasnevin)
Tipperary’s O’Keefe, who lost in the last final to the now-pro Katie Taylor, came out on top in an absolute war with Amy Broadhurst at the weekend. The Clonmel boxer is intensely focused and has now the experience of fighting over the 3×3 minute format. On the other hand, it is new territory in more ways than one for Dublin’s Harrington who is aiming to build on a breakout 2016. Receiving a bye to the final, it will be Harrington’s first fight since moving down to lightweight. The World Championships silver medalist will be favourite, but will need to be switched on from the start against the sharp Munster woman.

64kg Ciara Ginty (Geesala) v Emma Agnew (Dealgan)
Youth Olympic silver medalist and World Junior gold medalist Ginty contests her first Senior Elite final. The Mayo woman avenged her Under-22 final to Cheyanne O’Neill in the finals and now faces Louth’s Agnew, who looked very impressive in dispatching Intermediate champion Saidhbh Greene last week.

69kg Gráinne Walsh (Spartacus) V Gillian Duffy
Gráinne Walsh had an impressive debut year at Elite international level, reaching the quarters of the Worlds and Europeans, and looked comfortable in her opener against Tina Donnelly. The heavy-hitting Offaly boxer now faces Duffy, a former kickboxer and semi-finalist in 2015, who received a bye to the final.

81kg Leona Houlihan (Crumlin) v Caroline Connolly (Mourne GG)
Houlihan will be looking to add to her Intermediate title won in November, but will have to negotiate the challenge of the hugely experienced Caroline Connolly, who has been on the scene for over a decade.

There are also walkovers (should they successfully weigh in) for:
Carly McNaul (Ormeau Road) – 51kg
Terry Mullarney (Ballyhaunis) – 54kg
Christina Desmond (Fr Horgans) – 75kg
Maeve McCarron (Carrigart) – +81kg

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: joneill6@tcd.ie