Amateur Boxing: Ulster Elite Championship Finals
CARLY McNaul ended a 21-month exile from the ring when she won the flyweight crown with a victory over Holy Family’s Sionnan McKenna in the Ulster Elite Finals night at the Girdwood Community Hub.
The boxer from Ormeau Road BC had not put himself between the ropes since his loss to England’s Charley Sian-Davison in the European Olympic qualifiers in March 2020, and has overcome several obstacles to come back.
Last night’s success, which came thanks to a measured performance as opposed to her usual all-action approach, puts McNaul in pole position for another crack at the Commonwealth Games – and this time she’s hoping to do better than the money she brought back from the Gold Coast in 2018.
“I broke my femur, had eye surgery and also contracted Covid at the end of July, so it was good to come back,” she said.
âThere were loads of times I thought I might not come back, especially after having Covid. It was really difficult to overcome. I am doubly vaccinated but I have asthma and my breathing was correctâ¦ there were times when you thought “I don’t know if I will ever get back to my physical shape”.
âFortunately, everything fell into place, and now I feel like I’m ready for whatever is to follow. I went to the Gold Coast and nobody expected me to get anything, the final was very close. I hope this time I can go for some gold.
She could be joined by Tyrone’s Jude Gallagher, after the 20-year-old picked up a 3-2 split-decision victory over Conor Kerr to secure his first Ulster Elite title.
With featherweight pivot Kurt Walker out of sight after turning pro, the opportunity was there for Gallagher or Kerr to claim a place in Birmingham next summer – and it was the tornado of the two castles that arrived.
Gallagher – an elite Irish flyweight champion in 2019 – pulled off some eye-catching body shots in all three rounds, and his sharper combinations clearly impressed the judges, even though he was seen to have lost the first round .
With former amateur star and current pro competitor Eric Donovan in his corner, Gallagher dug deep to see the final round, his relief clear when his hand was lifted.
Maybe the contest of the night came when Dominic Bradley, fighting for the third time in three nights, produced a perfect third round to weather storm Rory Lavery and win the 60kg title.
Emerald’s man was too quick and slippery in the first, but the week seemed to take its toll on Bradley as Lavery stalked him in the second, landing sleek right hands as the tide seemed to turn.
But a strong right hand saw Lavery touch the ground early in the third round. After receiving a permanent scorecard he went on the offensive but Bradley found a second win to show off his exemplary skills on the road to a 4-1 split.
Jack McGivern followed in his brother James’ footsteps when he won the 63.5kg crown, using his size and reach to control most of his clash with Anthony Malanaphy d’Erne.
James having won bronze in the last Commonwealths, his younger brother now hopes to repeat – or go even further – if he is selected for Birmingham.
Eugene McKeever ended a year to remember when he got the upper hand in the Holy Family Cathal Jennings match, the Mullaghbawn man class showing he has won three back-to-back elite titles in Ulster.
Olympic bronze medalist Aidan Walsh was watching from behind the scenes, and it will be interesting to see if there is any question of a box-off between the two, who faced off in the Irish Elite two years ago – Walsh getting the green light that evening.
At 71kg, John Boyd clinched a 3-2 split decision victory over All Saints’ Emeka Onwuka after a cautious encounter, before Jake Tucker showed glimpses of his unmistakable class as he successfully defended his crown of weight. average with a 3-2 split decision victory over Lex Weston.
Southpaw Tucker was too quick and precise in the first round, throwing shots from unorthodox angles and landing combinations at will as Weston was rocked several times.
However, Weston did make it known he was not yet finished when a big right touchdown landed Tucker’s mouthguard flying out of his mouth early in the second, only for the man de Newry reaffirmed his control.
But Weston kept coming and rocked Tucker down to his socks halfway through round three before a frantic end to an absorbing encounter – the Emerald Man winning.
At mid-heavyweight, Ballymena’s Rory Kinney mixed him up at the elite level for the first time, and showed he has a future at that level after pushing Gerard French all the way, even forcing the seasoned man to the West Belfast in a standing account in the third.
French’s solid jab saw him dominate first but, as he grew tired, former Northern Ireland pool player Kinney gained his confidence, overtaking his opponent with two solid uppercuts.
There wasn’t much between them in the third until a big left-right combination left the Frenchman fidgety, but he managed to hang on to secure the victory.
After a 10-bell tribute to Ulster boxing mainstay Martin Walsh, who passed away last month, Nicole Clyde proved too savvy for Chloe Fleck in the women’s lightweight flight final to kick off the action of the night .
Antrim’s southpaw couldn’t miss with the left hand throughout and although Fleck continued to fight fiercely, snagging good rights, she couldn’t change the momentum of the fight.
While Canal’s wife was tired in the third round, Clyde finished strong to win the title.
Ricky Nesbitt and Padraig Downey served as a cracker in the male light fly decider, Nesbitt – who represented Ireland at the Elite World Championships in October – took a unanimous decision victory after a nip and pullback bout.
It was a bit hard on Downey, dropping to 48 kilograms. The man from St John Bosco did well, arguably winning the second round after landing two impressive bursts.
However, while Downey was more frugal with his job, Nesbitt continued to shoot away, often having the last laugh in the exchanges to gain the attention of the judges.
Last year’s champion Diarmuid Toland, who has had to withdraw from 2021 competition due to tonsillitis, is hoping to make his way to Nesbitt as the race for Commonwealth places intensifies.
There was something of a flyweight upheaval as Cookstown’s Craig Biggar took over current Irish elite champion Paddy McShane following an intriguing battle.
The smaller Biggar looked sharper at first, although Letterkenny’s McShane landed the more eye-catching shots as the fight continued. But Bigger stayed busy throughout the laps, landing smart shots from the outside, to get the go-ahead on a 3-2 split.
In the last two fights of the night, Monkstown heavyweight Charlie Boyle claimed a unanimous victory over Newington’s Stephen McMullan, before Cavan’s Thomas Maughan edged his super-heavyweight rival Aaron Travers in a 3-2 division.
Ulster Elite Championship Final Results
F48kg: N Clyde (Antrim) v C Fleck (Canal) 5-0
M48kg: R Nesbitt (St John Bosco, Newry) bt P Downey (St John Bosco, Belfast) 5-0
51kg: C Biggar (Cookstown) v P McShane (Letterkenny) 3-2
F52kg: C McNaul (Ormeau Road) bt S McKenna (Holy Family) 5-0
F54kg: N Meli (Immaculata) v C McComiskey (Gilford) 5-0
57kg: J Gallagher (Two Castles) vs. C Kerr (Monkstown) 3-2
60kg: D Bradley (Emerald) bt R Lavery (Holy Family) 4-1
F60kg: A Broadhurst (St Bronagh’s) bt C Gargan (St George’s) RSC2
63.5 kg: J McGivern (St George’s) v A Malanaphy (Erne) 5-0
69kg: E McKeever (St Malachy’s, Newry) vs. C Jennings (Holy Family) 5-0
71kg: J Boyd (Gleann) bt E Onwuka (All Saints) 3-2
75kg: J Tucker (Emerald) vs. L Weston (Ardoyne HC) 3-2
80kg: G French (Emerald) bt R Kinney (Scorpion) 4-1
92kg: C Boyle (Monktown) vs S McMullan (Newington) 5-0
92 + kg: T Maughan (Cavan) v A Travers (Carrickmore) 3-2
50kg: Fryers C (Immaculata); 54 kg: J O’Neill (Corpus Christi); 57kg: M Walsh (Monkstown); 66kg: E Nugent (Immaculate); 70 kg: R Doherty (star); 86kg: K Tucker (Emerald)