After a decade away, Ireland’s premier provincial tournament was back at the atmospheric city centre venue.
With the lure of the Hall, and with results factoring into consideration for Commonwealth Games selection, a large field had entered with preliminaries last week at the Dockers.
Seven champions entered tonight assured of their titles following walkovers. These were – Ricky Nesbitt, Conor Wallace, Joe Joyce, Michaela Walsh, Alanna Nihell, Sarah Close, and Caroline Connolly – and this left nine finals to be decided on the night.
Opening the show was the women’s light flyweight final, with Kristina O’Hara putting on a dominant performance against young Chloe Fleck. The Irish Elite champion forced counts in the second and third, but Fleck managed to see the final bell.
At flyweight, Ormeau Road war-lover Carly McNaul pushed and pushed against Virginia southpaw Ceire Smith, but the Cavan veteran was too experienced and picked off the Belfast slugger to claim the win – with Smith’ long left being extremely potent and forcing a count in the final round..
In one of the fights of the night, Brendan Irvine overcame a spirited display from Conor Quinn at flyweight. The Clonard youngster ambushed the Olympian in the opening round with uppercuts, but the ‘Wee Rooster’ came back well in the second and third with big shots to take the win.
A scrappy final at bantam saw the rangey Eamonn McNally retain his title against Conor Kerr. The St Michael’s man now most likely faces a box off with European bronze medalist Kurt Walker for a place on the plane to Australia.
At lightweight, 2015 Commonwealth Youth gold medalist James McGivern gave an exhibition in the opening two rounds before going to war with Sean Duffy in the final round to announce his arrival on the senior scene.
Gleann’s Caoimhin Ferguson put up a spirited fight, and no little talent, but the skill of Sean McComb won out in the end of their 64kg final, with one salvo in the closing seconds of the second round almost taking the roof off the Ulster Hall.
At welter there was an extreme clash of styles between Brett McGinty and Aidan Walsh. Competitive rounds in the first and third were punctuated by a sensational second round from Walsh – and it was the Monkstown man who won out on a 4-1 split.
Going for an Ulster title in a fourth weight division, Rio Olympian Steven Donnelly was drawn into a war by Fearghus Quinn, but landed the more eye-catching shots in the second and third to put himself in the frame for a third Commonwealth Games.
Closing the show were the heavyweights, come-forward veteran Jason Barron was beaten on a 4-1 split by former super heavy champ Dee Sullivan who boxed well from the outside and got stronger as the fight went on.
The Best Boxer award went to McGivern, while Most Improved Young Boxer was given to Quinn/
Two special contests also took place during the night, with Nesbitt and Jason McKay fighting at flyweight, while Wallace went up against John Joyce of St Michael’s Athy.
Ulster Elite Senior Championships, Ulster Hall, Belfast
48kg Kristina O’Hara (St John Bosco Belfast) beat Chloe Fleck (Canal)
51kg Ceire Smith (Virginia) beat Carly McNaul (Ormeau Road)
52kg Brendan Irvine (St Pauls) beat Conor Quinn (Clonard)
56kg Eamonn McNally (St Michaels) beat Conor Kerr (Glengormley)
60kg James McGivern (St Georges) beat Sean Duffy (Holy Trinity)
64kg Sean McComb (Holy Trinity) beat Caoimhin Ferguson (Gleann)
69kg Aidan Walsh (Monkstown) beat Brett McGinty (Oakleaf)
75kg Steven Donnelly (All Saints) beat Fergus Quinn (Camlough)
91kg Damien Sullivan (Emerald) beat Jason Barron (Holy Trinity)
49kg Ricky Nesbitt (Carrickmacross) v Jason McKay (Canal)
81kg Conor Wallace (Holy Family D) v John Joyce (St Michaels Athy)