Egan DISMISSES 'average' Ward
Olympic hero stokes up rivalry with rematch on horizon
Last night's Elite National Senior Championships semi-finals promised some explosive action at the National Stadium. And that's just what we got.
Seven defending champions went into action and all seven are now through to next week's deciders.
While the three boxers who've already nailed down Olympic qualification came to the ring intent on reinforcing their credentials, the public's focus was on light-heavyweight Joe Ward, who last year put a sensational halt to Kenny Egan's bid to add an 11th national title to his impressive tally.
World Youth champion Ward went on to add a European senior gold to his CV. But things looked a bit shaky when he failed to achieve Olympic qualification in Turkey last summer.
Last night, Ward put his Olympic ambitions firmly back on track with a convincing semi-final win (17-4) over David Joe Joyce.
"I was a bit ring rusty," claimed 18-year-old Ward. "I'm still only young but I'm learning more skills. I've been doing a lot of training and I'm very fit. I went in there to perform. I didn't perform well at the World Championships. So I'm hoping to make up for it now."
Egan, whose attempt to move up a weight division didn't work, contests tomorrow's semi-final with Eamonn Walsh (St Anne's) at light-heavyweight.
The winner will meet Ward in next week's final. Egan watched last night's bout and was unimpressed. "He was just average," Egan noted. "But that said, Joyce didn't show much."
Back in his dressing room, Ward said: "It'll be really good if Kenny wins again. I've sparred him in Dublin so if we meet it should be a good fight. Kenny will want to regain his title. I'm just hoping I perform to my best and if that takes me the whole way well and good."
Despite picking up a public warning in the third round, Crumlin's Evan Metcalfe fought back strongly from being 13-6 down to finish on the downside of a 23-15 score to Hugh Myers (Ryston) in the light-flyweight bout.
Spirited opposition from Shane Roche (Corinthians) didn't stop Michael Conlon underlining his Olympic credentials with an impressive performance. Conlon imposed a standing count on his opponent in the third on his way to winning 28-12.
Also destined for London, John Joe Nevin (Cavan) hit the ground running in the first round of his bantamweight contest with Holy Trinity's Sean McComb. Displaying a more aggressive go-forward style than before, he finished 3-3 at the end of the first.
Roche edged the second round 6-7 and spectators sensed an upset might be on the cards.
Unleashing a ferocious onslaught, Nevin brought all his skill to bear. Among the shots that connected, a left-right combination brought a standing count. But his body shots then cost him two points for a public warning. After a nervous wait while the scores came in, Nevin was declared the winner on a 13-12 scoreline.
"I didn't perform great but you can't take anything away from Sean, I knew he was going to be tough," said Nevin afterwards. "He caught me with a couple of shots at the start of the third but then I caught him with some hard shots. He was long and rangy, so I had to improve."
If Niall Murray (Gorey) felt intimidated meeting last year's boxer of the tournament, Ross Hickey (Grangecon), he didn't show it. But Hickey demonstrated why he's regarded by many in boxing as a potential Olympian by picking his shots to edge each round to finish 15-12 ahead.
Holy Trinity's Conrad Cummings suffered a one point semi-final defeat by Darren O'Neill last year. After a cracking scrap in a rematch last night, O'Neill, who has already qualified for London, had his hand raised 13-10 in the deciding round.
Tonight's action includes bouts in the women's semi-finals. Emma Duffy (Crumlin) meets Ceire Smith (Cavan) in the flyweight semi-final.
Results of last night's semi-finals
49kg: Hugh Myers (Ryston) beat Evan Metcalfe (Crumlin) 23-15.
52kg: Michael Conlon (St John Bosco) beat Shane Roche (Corinthians) 28-12.
56kg: John Joe Nevin (Cavan) beat Sean McComb (Holy Trinity) 13-12.
60kg: Michael McDonagh (St Mary's) beat Tyrone McCullagh (Holy Trinity GG) 11-5.
64kg: Ross Hickey (Grangecon) beat Niall Murray (Gorey) 15-12.
69kg: Adam Nolan (Bray) beat Willie McLaughlin (Illies GG) 13-10.
75kg: Darren O'Neill (Paulstown) beat Conrad Cummings (Holy Trinity).
81kg: Joe Ward (Moate) beat David Joe Joyce (Ballinacargy) 17-4.
91kg: Tommy McCarthy (Oliver Plunkett) beat Stephen Ward (Monkstown) 16-11.
91+kg: Con Sheehan (Clonmel) beat Ken Okungbowa (Moate) 17-8.