In one of the most competitive editions of the tournament in recent years, the 2020 National Elite Championships came to a close in Dublin tonight.
Brought forward to facilitate boxers fighting at the European Olympic qualifiers in March, there were few fights that had decisive ramifications on selection but plenty of bouts that entertained.
A host of big names pulled out of the championships at the last minute through injury and illness but there was no lack of excitement during a marathon five hours of boxing.
Sean Mari got things underway in what was a thrilling opening fight. The Monkstown teenager landed the cleaner shots to edge Ricky Nesbitt on a 3-2 split to claim the light flyweight title in a reverse of their Intermediate decider earlier this month.
In a battle of the former underage stars, the aggressive Evelyn Igharo edged Ciara Ginty on another 3-2 split to take her maiden Elite title.
Nell Fox, down from heavyweight, and Leona Houlihan went toe-to-toe in a slugfest at 80kg. Fox would force a count in the final round and, coming on strong, won a unanimous decision.
Brandon McCarthy was too slick for Barry McReynolds at lightweight and, in the following fight, his girlfriend Daina Moorehouse would decisively defeat Shannon Sweeney to claim the light flyweight crown.
At middleweight, Jason Harty threw his name into the hat with a 4-1 win over the strong John Joe Nevin while Emmet Brennan wore down reigning champ Thomas O’Toole to announce himself at light heavy.
Michaela Walsh was typically dominant, stopping Emma Agnew at feather and Ceire Smith cruised past Niamh Early at flyweight.
In the corresponding fly final, Jude Gallagher made a big statement with a win over Regan Buckley and Dean Clancy edged a 3-2 versus another reigning champ, Paddy Adamus. at featherweight as the young guns made their breakthrough.
Aidan Walsh was imperious versus his namesake Callum before the biggest fight of the night – the women’s welter final with Christina Desmond defending her title versus Grainne Walsh in a repeat of February’s decider.
Walsh would come firing out of the blocks but Desmond established a rhythm and got stronger as the bout progressed to take a 4-1 split win.
There was another 4-1 split in the men’s light welter final with George Bates edging Wayne Kelly before Kenny Okungbowa defeated Toto Ó Griofa by the same score in the super heavy decider.
As we crept past 11, Canadian Sarah Haghighat overpowered Zara Breslin at bantamweight before Kirill Afanasev outslugged Danny O’Brien in a thrilling final fight at heavyweight.
Before the boxing had started there were three champions crowned, with Amy Broadhurst, Aoife O’Rourke, and Naoise Finney winning the light, middle, and heavy titles via walkover.
The Best Boxer Awards would go to first time winners Moorehouse and Gallagher, the 18-year-olds marking themselves out as big prospects for both the present and future
Liffey Crane Hire National Elite Championships
National Stadium Dublin. Friday November 22
60kg Amy Broadhurst (Dealgan) W/O
75kg Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea) W/O
81+kg Naoise Finney (Ballybrack) W/O
49kg Sean Mari (Monkstown Dublin) beat Ricky Nesbitt (Holy Family Drogheda) 3-2
64kg Evelyn Igharo (Clann Naofa) beat Ciara Ginty (Geesala) 3-2
81kg Nell Fox (Rathkeale) beat Leona Houlihan (Crumlin) 5-0
60kg Brandon McCarthy (St Michael’s Athy) beat Barry McReynolds (Holy Trinity) 5-0
48kg Daina Moorehouse (Enniskerry) beat Shannon Sweeney (St Anne’s) 5-0
75kg Jason Harty (Rathkeale) beat John Joe Nevin (Crumlin) 4-1
81kg Emmett Brennan (Docklands) beat Thomas O’Toole (Celtic Eagles)
57kg Michaela Walsh (Monkstown A) beat Emma Agnew (Dealgan) RSC2
51kg Ceire Smith (Cavan) beat Niamh Early (Ryston) 5-0
52kg Jude Gallagher (Two Castles) beat Regan Buckley (St Teresa’s) 5-0
57kg Dean Clancy (Sean McDermott’s) beat Patryk Adamus (Drimnagh) 5-0
69kg Aidan Walsh (Monkstown Antrim) beat Callum Walsh (Riverstown) 5-0
69kg Christina Desmond (Fr Horgans) beat Grainne Walsh (Spartacus) 4-1
63kg George Bates (St Mary’s Dublin) beat Wayne Kelly (Portlaoise) 4-1
91+kg Kenneth Okungbowa (Athlone) beat Toto Ó Griofa (Celtic Eagles)
54kg Sarah Haghighat (St Brigids Edenderry) beat Zara Breslin (Tramore) 5-0
91kg Kiril Afanasev (Smithfield) beat Daniel O’Brien (Defence Forces) 5-0