By Michael O’Neill
20 year old Athlone BC Lightweight (60) kg, Cheyanne O’Neill is in the final stages of her preparation for February’s prestigious Brampton Cup tournament in Ontario where she will be ‘guesting’ for the St Brigid’s Edenderry club whom you will recall we featured here recently.
Another ‘guest’ will be Labhaoise Clarke from the Carndonagh club in Donegal a seven time Irish champion at various grades. She too – and others like her – owe much to Liam Brereton for giving them the opportunity of joining up with Irish Elite flyweight champion Lauren Hogan, Shannon Edge and the rest of the St Brigid’s squad.
At the Brampton Cup the Irish contingent will also link up with one of the leading Canadian coaching staff, one Steve Bailey, himself from Galway just over an hour’s drive from Athlone on the M6.
O’Neill is also a member of the IABA Elite Women’s squad so what with Christmas and New Year followed by intensive training sessions at the National Stadium she certainly is keeping fit. This week she took time out from her training and had his to say to your correspondent:
“Since the 5th of January I have started a training camp with the best male and female boxers Ireland has. Michael Conlan, Michael O’Reilly, Paddy Barnes, (her hero and Olympic Gold medallist), Katie Taylor, Michaela Walsh and all the rest of the girls and boys are there and this is a great experience for me. The amount of experience and the international experience gained from everyone training up in the HP has helped me a lot since , there are no better people to learn from. I am really happy with it”.
So when I wondered is Cheyanne – or ‘Chaz’ is she is better known in boxing circles) off to Canada and how did the invite come about?
“On the 3rd of February I’ll be flying to Canada to compete in the Brampton Cup with Liam Brereton’s team of girls from his St Brigid’s club and one or two others. By then as I said I will have been on a month’s training camp with the elite HP team and also in my own club in Athlone. To go out there and compete in my first senior international tournament abroad is great.
I couldn’t be more grateful to Liam for inviting me and adding me to his team. Hopefully I can go out there and prove I can be the best. This is my first year as a Senior and I’ve reached the Irish Senior final in a very close fight (with Kelly Harrington). I’m making my mark and showing I’m there for the long run. I’ve had good years at Junior and Youth now it’s my time to prove I can be one of the best seniors also.
Nothing better than to start my journey of 2016 as an Elite boxer than to get off to a good start in Ontario. Really looking forward to it and hope to gain a lot from the experience of seeing so many top class boxers in action.
Back in 2014, at the Stralsund Queen’s Cup in Germany, I was fighting at lightweight (60kg ), and had to defeat the reigning world Junior champion Iryna Yaskova of Ukraine ‘en route’ to the final, where I narrowly lost out to was defeated by the then AIBA World Youth welterweight champion Agnes Alexiusson of Sweden. The latter is now one of Sweden’s top hopes for Rio qualifying tournaments and the Worlds in Astana.
Speaking to local media at the time Chaz’s coach, trainer and Athlone BC founder, Rory Parkes said: “The standard of boxing was incredible so it’s a remarkable feat to be able to call herself number two in Europe. Her commitment to training is unsurpassed, and Cheyanne would train 24/7 if given the chance. She has done herself, her family, and her club proud, and will now set the bar higher to surpass her achievements in the future,” concluded Parkes, one of the country’s leading coaches.
Though 2016 Irish Olympian Joe Ward was a member of the nearby Moate BC and thus the County of Westmeath already well known on the AIBA circuit, Athlone itself had no club and this ‘inspired’ Parkes to set one up at the Community Hall in Battery Heights in 2006.
The ‘Westmeath Independent’ takes up the story:
“Athlone had no boxing club before Rory established one at the Community Hall in Battery Heights in 2006.
Canon Liam Devine subsequently offered the club use of the basement of Ss Peter and Paul’s Church, and the gym which was set up there was officially opened by RTÉ’s boxing commentator Jimmy Magee in October 2007.
“We’re now part of the furniture (at Ss Peter and Paul’s Church) so hopefully we’ll be there for a while yet,” he said.
“The first year or two was difficult because we were just getting set up, but we’ve been very fortunate in that we’ve had a huge amount of success in a relatively short period of time. At the moment, we have people coming through who you just know will be successful. They have that drive and dedication, which is needed because if you want to be a champion you have to train like a champion.”
One of those was Cheyanne whom Parkes described at the time as : “top class… a fantastic talent”
So good luck to Chaz, and all the Irish boxers setting out for Canada with Liam and the St Brigid’s team.
We’ll update news on news from Ontario here on IrishBoxing.com as the tournament progresses.