13 February 2009 – By Mark Doyle
Olympians Kenny Egan, John Joe Nevin and John Joe Joyce all progressed to the finals of their respective weight divisions at the National Elite Senior Championships on Friday night.
Light-heavyweight star Egan, who claimed a silver medal in last years Olympic Games in Beijing, was not quite at his brilliant best in his 16-3 victory over Denis Hogan.
On this return to the National Stadium, Egan started somewhat slowly and, despite scoring the first point of the contest, allowed Hogan to level, which drew a huge roar from the Grangecon contingent in attendance.
That sparked Egan into life, however, and after a rocking his stocky opponent with a couple of left hands the referee was forced to administer Hogan with a standing eight count towards the end of the opening stanza.
The always classy Egan continued to dominate in the second, landing with unerring regularity with his left hand. Indeed, it had all become a little too easy for the Neilstown southpaw and he coasted through the third until tagged with a big right from an increasingly desperate Hogan.
Again, Egan responded in predictably brutal fashion, stunning Hogan with two more big shots only to see the ball intervene and bring an end to what was a one-sided contest.
Nevin, meanwhile, was made to work hard in his bantamweight clash with Tyrone McCullough.
However, despite allowing McCullough to draw to within one point of him midway through the second, the Cavan clubman, who had Andrew Murray in his corner for the evening, eventually cut loose in the third, showing off his full repertoire skills including a crowd-pleasing Ali Shuffle as he eventually coasted to a 16-6 victory.
Joyce also won by a ten-point margin, the St. Michaels Athy light-welterweight claiming a 17-7 victory over a game Michael McLoughlin.
Carndonaghs McLoughlin did threaten sporadically with his left hand but Joyce, who connected freely with right hands and stinging body shots, improved dramatically as the bout wore on and the final scoreline in no way flattered him.
Elsewhere, Con Sheehan remains the reigning heavyweight champion – but only just, the Clonmel man having to produce a stunning comeback to see off Jimmy Sweeney in an absorbing bout.
Drimnaghs Sweeney had deservedly opened up a 4-1 advantage after two rounds after making the most of a strangely lethargic performance from Sheehan.
And, despite pulling a point back at the start of the final round, it appeared to be all over for defending champion when he was issued with a public warning for leading with the head, thus extending Sweeneys lead to four points (6-2) .
However, Sheehan refused to given in and began pouring forward, repeatedly pinning a rapidly tiring Sweeney on the ropes.
Sweeney did his best to tie Sheehan up in a bid to run down the clock. However, Sheehan scored twice in quick succession before drawing level when his shattered opponent was penalised for repeatedly dropping his head.
A frantic finale ensued and it was Sheehan who emerged victorious after he was awarded a point for scoring during an rapid-fire exchange in which both men appeared to land.
While Sheehan lived to fight another day, Roy Sheahan was not so lucky, the St. Michaels Athy welterweight suffering a shock 7-5 defeat at the hands of Willie McLoughlin.
At no point during the fight did Sheahan, who endured an injury-plagued 2008, look like his usual dazzling self and McLoughlin was good value for his victory.
Many see Saturday nights bout between Darren ONeill and Eamon OKane as something of a middleweight title decider but that simply cannot be considered the case given the quality of Stephen OReillys 9-2 victory over David Joyce.
Twin Towns pugilist OReilly boxed beautifully from the off and Joyce was nursing a bloodied nose by the start of the second.
OReilly came close to forcing a stoppage at one point but, credit to Joyce, he kept battling right until the final bell.
It was O’Reilly who went through, though, and it will be fascinating to see how he fares against the victor from the eagerly-anticipated clash between O’Neill and O’Kane.
Elsewhere, Joe Joyce withstood a tremendous late fightback from Anthony Crampton to sneak through to the super-heavyweight final with a dramatic 9-8 victory.
Moates Joyce led by four points going into the final round but a reinvigorated Crampton came desperately close to at least forcing a countback before he eventually ran out of time.
David Oliver Joyce, meanwhile, booked his place in the featherweight final with a 9-5 win over Dermot Lawlor in one of the most fiercely-competitive fights of the evening, while lightweight star Ross Hickey progressed with a 10-6 victory in a similarly lively clash with Ciaran Bates.
In the nights opening bout, Conor Ahern was awarded a walkover after Neil Walker was forced to withdraw from their scheduled light-flyweight semi-final encounter.