The National Elite Senior Championships have drawn to a close following a sensational night of action in Dublin.
A critical tournament in terms of what it can lead to, with European Games and World Championships in the pipeline, there was great action throughout with Olympic futures on the line.
In all, 17 champions were crowned in the ring at the National Stadium including 10 first-timers on a night which saw established stars reign and new ones emerge, with fantastic close fights dotted throughout the bill.
The night belonged to Galway boxing, with four fighters claiming four wins – Kieran Molloy defending his title, Adam Hession and Gabriel Dossen bursting onto the scene to claim their maiden titles while Thomas O’Toole upset Tommy Hyde.
Earlier today first-timer Emma Flannery, Kelly Harrington, and Nell Fox had their titles at bantam, lightweight, and heavyweight confirmed respectively following walkover wins.
Lisburn light fly juggernaught Chloe Fleck got the night underway in a repeat of last month’s Ulster final, once again forcing a count in the third round, two counts in fact, en-route to a 3-1 split decision win over Donna Barr.
Similarly relentless, Bray’s Regan Buckley claimed the men’s light fly crown with a strong win over the immensely gutsy 18-year-old Seán Mari.
Jumping up to middleweight, Cheyanne O’Neill was tricky and brave but was ultimately undone by the super strong Aoife O’Rourke of Roscommon.
European, EU, and double Commonwealth medallist Michaela Walsh was immaculate as she defeated Dervla Duffy in the featherweight final to claim her eighth Elite crown. Amazingly, the Tokyo prospect is still only 25 years of age and only seems to be getting better.
In a razor-tight men’s featherweight final, Drimnagh’s Paddy Adamus got a 3-2 nod over Christian Cekiso following a furious fight that could have, as IBF world champion and clubmate of Cekiso, TJ Doheny, said, be decided by a coin flip.
Lightweight Davey Oliver Joyce, cousin of his namesake Olympian, then turned in a masterclass to defeat Dominic Bradley to win a first Elite title at the age of just 18 while Amy Broadhurst was in first gear as she cruised past Moira McElligott at light welter.
In a war which had the whole arena on its feet, Adam Hession edged Evan Metcalfe at 52kg. The Galway teen was docked a point after being adjudged to have strayed low in the second and Metcalfe was enraged by the 4-1 split verdict having landed some huge shots but the tidy and busy work of Hession was preferred by a majority of the scoring judges.
Tipped for stardom by many, Galway middleweight Gabriel Dossen looked sensational at times, dropping 2017 champ Emmet Brennan in the opening round. The Dubliner pushed and made things uncomfortable for Dossen but the Olympic BC Olympic hope was too quick and skilfull in the end, winning a unanimous decision.
In a light heavyweight slugfest, rangy Tipperary-Crumlin boxer Leona Houlihan reclaimed her title from 2017, edging the heavy-hitting Lisa Browne on a 3-2 split.
The hotly-anticipated men’s heavyweight final between Tony Browne and Kenny Okungbowa was a thrilling, dramatic, and messy, affair. Dubliner Browne was the sharper early on but was docked two points in a messy second – with a single deduction also for Okungbowa. Both cut, they brawled in the third before the bout was stopped due to the gash over Browne’s right eye.
It was unclear what the result would be, a RSC-I was called – and Browne would believe he lost – before the St Michael’s man was declared the victor on a unanimous decision (18-17 x5) having won both completed rounds on the cards.
Moving into the TV broadcast, Carly McNaul and Niamh Earley delivered in the flyweight final, the Belfast boxer emerging victorious on a 3-2 split following a physical contest.
In an extremely cagey men’s light welterweight final, James McGivern squeaked past George Bates on a 3-2 split. Both had moved up from lightweight to chase their Tokyo dreams after the 60kg class was removed from the Olympic roster and there was very little engagement throughout – with the spread of scores (30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 28-29, 27-30) perhaps being indicative of this.
It was another 3-2 split in the women’s welterweight final but a completely different fight with Christina Desmond and Gráinne Walsh going to war for three rounds. The former middleweight from Cork would began strongly with sharp southpaw left hands before a big resurgance from reigning champ Walsh in an epic third but Desmond would get the nod.
Connemara’s Thomas O’Toole put in the performance of his life at light heavy boxed extremely smart in the opening two rounds to negate, frustrate, and outland Tommy Hyde. The touted Corkonian would hurt the rangy O’Toole in the third but couldn’t apply the finish as the Celtic Eagles man ran out a 4-1 winner.
Then came perhaps the most hyped fight of the night, Kieran Molloy defending his welterweight title against Paddy Donovan. The Galway talent began the better, landing the cleaner punches in a cagey opener. It really heated up in the second, Molloy building momentum and scoring heavy shots before a frantic closing few seconds where the pair traded and Donovan did damage. Both enjoying themselves, the third was the fight’s best, with big punches and goading throughout – along with a nasty cut for Donovan at the close.
Going to the cards following an insanely high-quality contest, Molloy was confirmed a unanimous decision winner but the bout could well be the beginnings of long-term rivalry.
World lightweight champion Kelly Harrington would win her international contest with Jelena Jelic before the final bout of the night, the big men Dean Gardiner and Martin Keenan. A repeat of the 2018 final, Gardiner would score a huge knockdown in the opening round and run out a unanimous decision winner. Seemingly improving every year, it will be a final push for the Olympics for the Tipperary super heavy.
Following the conclusion of the night’s action, all that was left was to crown the best boxers of the championships, with Gabriel Dossen and Christina Desmond taking these honours.
National Elite Senior Championships
48kg – Chloe Fleck (Canal) beat Donna Barr (Illies GG) 3-1
49kg – Regan Buckley (St Teresa’s) beat Sean Mari (Monkstown D) 5-0
75kg – Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea) beat Cheyanne O’Neill (Athlone) 5-0
57kg – Michaela Walsh (Monkstown A) beat Dervla Duffy (Crumlin) 5-0
57kg – Paddy Adamus (Drimnagh) beat Christian Cekiso (Portlaoise) 3-2
60kg – David Oliver Joyce (Ballymun) beat Dominic Bradley (Errigal) 5-0
64kg – Amy Broadhurst (Dealgan) beat Moira McElligott (St Michael’s K) 5-0
52kg – Adam Hession (Monivea) Evan Metcalfe (Hyland BA) 4-1
75kg – Gabriel Dossen (Olympic G) V Emmett Brennan (Glasnevin) 5-0
80kg – Leona Houlihan (Crumlin) beat Lisa Browne (Aglish) 3-2
91kg – Tony Browne (St Michael’s D) beat Kenneth Okungbowa (Athlone) 5-0
51kg – Carly McNaul (Holy Family GG) beat Niamh Earley (Ryston) 3-2
63kg – James McGivern (St George’s) bet George Bates (St Mary’s) 3-2
69kg – Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan’s) beat Grainne Walsh (Sparticus) 3-2
81kg – Thomas O’Toole (Celtic Eagles) beat Tommy Hyde (Mayfield) 3-2
69kg – Kieran Molloy (Oughterard) beat Paddy Donovan (OLOL) 5-0
60kg – Kelly Harrington (Ireland) beat Jelena Jelic (Sweden) 5-0
91+kg – Dean Gardiner (Clonmel) beat Martin Keenan (Rathkeale) 5-0