IT’S Irish Elite finals night at the National Stadium in Dublin on Saturday (from 5pm) with a packed schedule including local hopefuls who have ambitions of reaching this summer’s European Games.
The event in Poland that begins in late June will act at the first qualifier for next year’s Olympic Games, so being part of the Irish team is make or break for those with dreams of reaching Paris.
There are 25 finals down for decision on Saturday, but before that there is a programme of male semi-finals on Friday to complete and there are several locals who will bid to advance.
Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh enters the fray where he will take on Dean Walsh from St Ibar’s/St Joseph’s.
Walsh received a bye into the last four, with his Wexford namesake, a former Irish champion, warming up with a 5-0 win over Igor Blazhenko last weekend.
This is a bout that could be worthy of the final, but remains a last-four clash with the other semi-final seeing Ulster champion Jon McConnell in an all-Ulster semi-final against Matthew McCole from Illies in a light-middleweight on Friday.
The Holy Trinity fighter finally got over his semi-final hump in the provincial competition before Christmas and will have high hopes of carrying that momentum into this weekend.
The full compliment of boxers contesting 2023 National Elite Championship finals won’t be known until the completion of the men’s semi finals on Friday, January 20th. Finals bouts will be boxed in the following order, to these approximate times:https://t.co/w7XLFw1Nqb pic.twitter.com/soCZjUKiqC— IABA (@IABABOXING) January 16, 2023
There is still semi-final business to be taken care of at the Olympic weight of 63.5kg with Star ABC’s John Paul Hale set to make Dean Clancy on Friday.
Hale survived a scare in the quarter-final as he squeezed past Monkstown’s Daryl Clarke on a 3-2 decision.
The North Belfast man looked a little off last weekend as he fell short with his punches and was punished with counters.
He switched stances back and forth as he tried to find his range, but Clarke was evading much of the attacks coming his way and landed with a solid right in the second, although Hale retaliated with a lead left.
It seemed all to play for in the final round and although Clarke continued to box well, Hale got the nod by the thinnest of margins.
Should he emerge on Friday evening, the Commonwealth Games’ representative will meet either Aaron O’Donohue or Brandon McCarthy in the final.
Also in semi-final action on Friday is Emerald’s Kane Tucker who takes on Kyle Roche, the winner advancing into the 86kg decider against Dmytro Oliynyk in the last of the finals on Saturday night.
There are already five local representatives through to Saturday’s finals and in the second scheduled bout of the day, St John Bosco’s Paudraig Downey will take on Ricky Nesbitt from Holy Family, Drogheda in the minimum weight decider.
Downey lost out in the 2021 decider against Paddy McShane and will hope to get over the line this time against Nesbitt who had the better of it when they met in the 2021 Ulster final.
St Paul’s ABC’s Dylan Eagleson has been riding the crest of a wave with European silver and Commonwealth gold in 2022 and he will aim to secure his first national Elite title on Saturday when he takes on Jorge Rogla Castanno in the bantamweight final.
Eagleson’s meteoric rise has been one of the recent stories of Irish boxing and he seems destined for further glory, but must get the better of the Spanish native.
Holy Trinity’s Clepson Dos Santos will hope to put his Ulster Elite disappointment behind him when he meets Sean Mari in the flyweight final.
Dos Santos, who competed at the Commonwealth Games, lost out to Blaine Dobbins in Derry before Christmas and he faces a stern test against Mari who was the 2020 light-flyweight champion.
Michaela Walsh marched into another Irish Elite final as the Commonwealth Games’ gold medallist breezed to a unanimous decision win over Kellie McLoughlin in their featherweight semi-final last Saturday.
The Emerald fighter was simply too good for her St Catherine’s opponent and will face Kelsey Leonard in Saturday’s final, where she will aim to maintain her incredible record of having never lost an Irish Elite bout.
Carly McNaul withdrew from her 50kg semi-final with Caitlin Fryers last weekend, giving the Immaculata fighter a straight path into Saturday’s final where she will face Daina Moorehouse who was a 5-0 winner over Niamh Early.
Fryers claimed European silver back in October and will aim to build on that by retaining her Elite crown having defeated Nicole Clyde in 2021.
Clyde has made the step up to 52 kilos and the Antrim fighter takes on Chloe Gabriel early on Saturday.
Given the importance of this year’s championships, the majority of Irish stars are in action with Olympic gold medallist Kellie Harrington due to be in the ring at 9pm when she faces Zara Breslin in the women’s lightweight decider, while World, European and Commonwealth champion Amy Broadhurst faces Grainne Walsh in the 66kg final at 10pm.
The St Bronagh’s, Rostrevor star was a 4-1 winner over Kaci Rock in their semi-final last weekend and Walsh - a former two-time European bronze medallist - edged out Leanne Murphy on a 3-2 split to set up a mouthwatering clash.