21 February 2009 – By Cormac Campbell
A full house at the National Stadium witnessed one of the finest Senior Final nights in recent years on Friday night.
2008 had been a vintage year for amateur boxing in Ireland but on the evidence of Friday night things look rosy for some time to come.
Much was made in the build up to the Championships of the impending first meeting of Olympic silver medalist Kenny Egan and World Youth bronze medalist Tommy McCarthy. The undisputed king of the amateur sport on these shores vs the heir apparent. Unfortunately the bout, which saw Dubliner Egan compete for a record ninth light-heavyweight title in a row, turned out to be a scrappy affair as a mixture of Belfast teenager McCarthys inexperience and Egans ring rust combined to make a less than entertaining spectacle.
Egan was value for his 9-5 points victory.
It is difficult to be overly critical when we know just how good Egan can be. Likewise McCarthy is a boxer brimming over with potential. He has some rough edges notably his footwork which struggled to adapt to the Champions southpaw stance. Whether the duo will renew hostilities next year remains to be seen. Yet to fully develop fully in to a man, a growth spurt could force McCarthy to move up to heavyweight where he would face the imposing challenge of dislodging the impressive Con Sheehan from Clonmel.
The reigning champion dug deep to outhustle the advances of returning former titlist Alan Reynolds (Sligo) in an absorbing contest of power and skill, which finished 10-7.
Both men went toe to toe for the duration of the contest with authority swaying back and forth. It was only in the final round that Sheehan managed to acquire some breathing space as the older, more inactive, Reynolds slowed and shipped a cut to the left eyelid.
For Sheehan to continue developing he needs the likes of Reynolds in the opposing corner, whether the veteran decides to give the Seniors one last crack in 2010 is anyones guess but the scene suffers greatly in his absence.
There can be little argument over the surprise of the night. Unheralded Crumlinman Philip Sutcliffe was expected to be little other than a gallant loser against Olympian and European medalist John Joe Joyce. Perhaps JJJ believed this as well as he entered the ring, seemingly without a care in the world. However, a crushing right hand sent him heavily to the canvas in the very first round. He arose, but Sutcliffe showed the instincts of a true finisher by piling on the pressure and crumpling his illustrious opponent on to the canvas, his frame being supported by the ropes.
Whether Suctcliffe sticks around long enough to establish himself as a force on the international stage is anyones guess. His father, who is also his coach, has already dipped his toes in to professional promotion and it is clear, on the basis of the Joyce performance, that Sutcliffe has the power, style and support to make an impact as a pro.
Another boxer who has the style to make an impact in the professionals is Belfastman Carl Frampton who engaged in the fight of the night to lift the featherweight crown after a grueling battle with David Oliver Joyce (10-5). From the opening bell, both boxers stood toe to toe throwing powerful looking hooks, uppercuts and body shots.
Although an unfathomably large number of these shots werent being reflected on the scoreboard (a worrying theme throughout the evening) they were taking their toll as Joyce was dropped in the second and adjudged to require a standing count in the third and final round.
Olympian John Joe Nevin (Cavan) again displayed his dominance of the bantamweight division, outboxing former champion Ryan Lindberg (Belfast) 15-1. When the pedigree of Lindberg is considered (an Ulster and Irish Champion at 17-years-old), the progress of Nevin becomes all the more apparent. So slick, his movement and variety is truly world class and as such Nevin looks a decent bet to pick up a medal at this years World Championships.
In the middleweight division, perennial bridesmaid Darren ONeill finally got his hands on a senior title. The Kilkenny man has been unfortunate enough to come up against Egan and fellow Olympic medalist Darren Sutherland in recent years but in 2009 he made the leap. Defeating European bronze medalist Eamonn OKane in the semi-final, ONeill got the nod over Donegals Stephen OReilly by a score of 6-1. That OReilly picked up just one point is another bone of contention. Throughout the contest he peppered ONeill with dozens of shots which although light on power, where certainly landing with some frequency. ONeill for his part boxed in a more controlled and indeed powerful manner his shots clearly hitting their target, leaving no mistake in the judges minds. For his exploits ONeill was also awarded the boxer of the tournament award.
Disappointingly, Olympic light-flyweight bronze medalist Paddy Barnes did not have the opportunity to perform as he was left without an opponent. Barnes ability and desire to succeed is there for all to see, and given the occasion, and the realisation that he would be without an opponent, it would have made sense for the IABA to bring in an international boxer to keep their man as sharp as possible.
2009 Elite National Senior Championships Results
48Kg: Light flyweight) Paddy Barnes (Holy Family) W/O
51Kg: Flyweight) Conor Ahern (Baldoyle) lost to Declan Geraghty (Dublin Docklands) 7-8
54Kg: Bantamweight) John Joe Nevin (Cavan) beat Ryan Lindberg (Immaculata) 15-1
57Kg: Featherweight) David Oliver Joyce (St Michael’s Athy) lost to Carl Frampton (Midland) 5-10
60Kg: Lightweight) Ross Hickey (Grangecon) lost to Eric Donovan (St Michael’s Athy) 7-11
64Kg: Light welterweight) John Joe Joyce (St Michael’s Athy) lost to Philip Sutcliffee (Crumlin) RSC1
69Kg: Welterweight) Willie McLoughlin (Illies Golden Gloves) beat Cathal McAuley (Dungloe) RSC2
75Kg: Middleweight) Stephen O’Reilly (Twintowns) lost to Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) 1-6
81Kg: Light heavyweight) Ken Egan (Neilstown) beat Tommy McCarthy (Oliver Plunkett) 9-5
91Kg: Heavyweight) Con Sheehan (Clonmel) beat Alan Reynolds (St Joesphs Sligo) 10-7
91+Kg: Super heavyweight) David Joyce (Moate) W/O