Boxing trio stay on medal trail

HOPES of boxing gold for Kilkenny were boosted when three local fighters made it through a gruelling weekend at the 2012 Elite Senior Championships.

HOPES of boxing gold for Kilkenny were boosted when three local fighters made it through a gruelling weekend at the 2012 Elite Senior Championships.

Darren O’Neill made the best possible start to his quest for a fourth successive national boxing title.

The Paulstown boxer opened the defence of his middleweight (75kg) title in winning style, beating Stephen O’Reilly in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

O’Neill, who has taken a break from teaching to concentrate on training for the Summer’s Olympic games in London, was in control at the National Arena when the referee stopped the fight in round three when the score was 11-8 in favour of the Kilkenny southpaw. Leading 8-5 going into the final round, O’Neill moved into the final four after his opponent was retired with a cut over his left eye.

O’Neill had admitted that he will have to step things up for his semi-final this Friday against Conrad Cummings, a fighter he beat on his way to winning the title in 2011.

“I boxed poorly, but a win’s a win,” he said. “I’m still in it, but will have a difficult fight against an opponent with a tight defence.”

However, his club-mate Jamie Dowling’s interest in the finals is over after he lost his second fight inside 24 hours.

Dowling, fighting in the men’s welterweight (69kg category) made a brilliant start to the competition by beating Arklow’s Fergal Redmond 16-6 in the preliminary round on Friday. However, his involvement ended on Saturday after a 4-11 loss to Athy’s Roy Sheahan, a former European and Irish senior champion.

There could well be another national title heading for Paulstown, however. Lauragh O’Neill has been given a walkover in her semi-final of the women’s 81kg division.

Hoping to join her in the gold rush will be Callan’s Clare Grace. Fighting in the women’s 60kg category, Grace beat Joanne Barclay in the preliminary round. She will now fight Patricia Roddy from the Bray club this Saturday, with a place in the final against Carla Wright at stake.

Both fights will be part of busy card of boxing across Friday and Saturday. Bouts begin at 7pm each night.