By Kevin Byrne (follow Kevin on Twitter @kevoobyrne)
YESSS BREAKFAST!!! RIGHT HAND AFTER THE HOOK!
DOUBLE UP THAT JAB! OUT LONG, DOUBLE IT UP! DOUBLE UP THAT JAB, BREAKFAST, COME ON! RIGHT HAND AFTER IT… YEEEAH.
Con Sheehan is fairly animated at this stage, and why wouldn’t he be? One of his best mates, Clonmel BC team-mate Dean Gardiner, is embroiled in a super-heavyweight war with Joe Joyce of Moate at the National Stadium.
It’s a tight first round. Gardiner has the edge in size and strength, but Joyce is on him like a dog.
GOOD SOLID JAB, BREAKFAST. TWO STRAIGHT TO THE HEAD, BANG THEM IN! Doosh doosh. COME ON, BREAKFAST.
THREE SHOTS NOW, COME ON! TWO ON THE GLOVES AND COME BACK WITH A HARD ONE. YOU NEED THE BACK-HAND AFTER THAT!
And so on. Sheehan is hoarse by the end of the fight, where’s he’s just cheered his friend into the Elite super-heavyweight final.
And tis himself waiting there to meet him on Friday night.
They’ve met once before and it was nothing personal. Paired together in a box-off to decide the team for last year’s World Championships, Sheehan eased through the test and to be honest, it never really caught fire.
Perhaps they’re too close, or found it too hard to summon up the spite needed to dig the head off a rival boxer.
For this year’s Irish Elite Senior Championships, they were seeded No 1 and No 2.
Current champ Sean Turner has moved aside for the pro ranks, so a run of victories would guarantee an all-Clonmel final, just the 18th one-club decider in the history of the tournament.
And that’s precisely what happened, Sheehan winning through with victories over Niall Kennedy and Jason Barron before that, Gardiner progressing following wins over the aforementioned Joyce and Dennis Boriskins.
Irish-boxing caught up with both of them before they’d even laced a glove to catch their views on the draw, the possibility of fighting each other again, the time before and after a one-club fight and how Clonmel BC deals with the rivalry.
I-B: I’ll ask this to both of you, what was it like to fight your friend last year?
Dean Gardiner: Ah, it weren’t too bad. Sure we’re sparring the whole time so we’re used to being in the ring together by now. It just… has to be done.
Con, what did you make of the fight last time out?
Con Sheehan: It’s not nice having to fight him, but like Dean said the two of us are sparring day in, day out so it’s nothing new. We just go in and let the shots off. Whatever happens happens then.
But surely you need to put some spite into the punches, do you need to create an edge?
CS: The two of us have a competitive edge anyway. We know each other so long and grew up together, so the two of us just try to better each other out of spite! There’s no bad blood or no nothin’ like that, it’s just the two of us going in with a friendly rivalry.
How do you still get up for the fight?
CS: You don’t wanna be getting’ beat, lad, it’s as simple as that isn’t it?!? If you get beat you’re out of the tournament. Everyone still wants to get to that No 1 spot. That’s what drives the two of us to get in and push ourselves against each other. We’re only in there for nine minutes fighting. After that, grand, we’ll be friends again.
Dean, you want to take that mantle. How do you get up for the fight? Is that enough?
DG: Everyone wants to be No 1. I wouldn’t say you get a bit of a spite up, but you still want to win.
At any stage during your last fight, did you find yourself easing off, or enjoying yourself, or enjoying some friendly back and forth that you wouldn’t normally enjoy in a fight?
DG: I wouldn’t say you enjoy it, but you give it all you can.
Did you enjoy the fight with Dean, Con?
CS: Ah, I enjoy all my fights. But easing off? No way. None of the two of us eased off. It’s super-heavyweight boxing – you ease off for a few seconds, you get caught and you go asleep. No way would you be easing off at all. The two of us are giving 100 per cent against each other.
Do you keep in contact every day?
CS: Absolutely, we only live down the road from each other. We grew up together, hanging round together. We’re all mates together. We know each other all our lives.
If you’re drawn together to fight, will you have to keep your distance for a few days before?
CS: Ah, we still chat away to each other. We do be chatting sometimes warming up. You leave that a couple of minutes before the fight. You have nerves, but it’s a different kind of nerves than if you were fighting another fella.
Did you travel up together for your last fight?
CS: No, I don’t think we did that time.
DG: We came up in separate cars but sure we were in the gym the night before training together. We see too much of each other I think!
And what was the buzz like the night before you fought each other? In the gym, I mean.
CS: The night before, I think we had a very short session. I don’t think we saw that much of each other. The two of us were in and out the door and I think it was just a couple of rounds on the bags, a couple rounds of shadow boxing, then the two of us were gone, grand, see ya tomorrow. That was it.
Were you texting each other, ‘I’m gonna bate the head off you’ or anything like that?
CS: No, no, none of that! Look, at the end of the day it’s just a sport and we have to go in against each other. You’re training all year round to try to be the best. The two of us will go in and give our all. The next day we were out together not a bother. It’s just the name of the game, isn’t it?
To lose that fight though, how did that feel?
DG: (long) Eh… it’s was all right. Connie was the No 1 and I wasn’t even ranked going into it. I’m No 2 now so I’m glad I’m seeded. But sure look, if the two of want to win we’re going to have to beat each other eventually and go hell for leather.
You won’t accept it as easily the next time, though. The more you train and box, the more you’re going to see yourself as the No 1?
DG: That’s true too but sure look, we’ll see what happens. We’ll find out in the next few weeks.
Are you cheering for one another to reach the final?
CS: Absolutely, of course. We always want to win fights.
DG: The plan is to get two Clonmel men into the senior final.
CS: I was delighted to see him get seeded No 2. We were thinking there might only be the one seed so we were delighted to get the No 2 seed as well, and we can keep clear of each other. If one of us gets beat, at least the other still has a chance until finals night. And if the two of us gets to the final, it’s brilliant for the club. Then the two of us can just go at it like we said.
Who out of the two of you punches harder?
CS: I’d say he punches harder than I do.
DG: He’d be quicker!
Who started boxing first?
CS: He started boxing first as well.
DG: I started boxing first, but I left when I was about 16. Connie stuck at it and he got the rewards. But I’m just back now a year, year and a half, so I’m happy to be in the same ring as him.
What happened at the club when you fought last time out? What corner arrangements were made?
CS: What they done was, the put our names into a hat and they got two coaches to pick. They left out the main coach, Martin Fennessy who would usually do both our corners, he wasn’t involved at all. He put the names in a hat and the other club coaches, John Mackey and Keith Galvin, he asked them to pull out a name without knowing. It was the fairest way we could do it.
Was that just the night before?
CS: Yeah, just the night before. It was as fair as we could do it, and that was it.
Were you happy with the coach you got?
DG: It was grand. I wasn’t talking to the coaches for an hour or two after the fight! But it was grand. It didn’t really matter who we got.
Where was the winning of the fight last time?
DG: He boxed better than me (laughs).
How long did it take you to admit that?
DG: Ah no, I knew it after the fight. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t kill me, there wasn’t much in it, but he won fair and square and there was nothing I could do, I couldn’t give out. I knew I was beat.
Did you go for a pint together afterwards?
CS: We did yeah, the next day we went for an oul pint. Early enough as well, wasn’t it? We were down in Clonmel in a few of the local pubs. Like I said, we’d be out together anyway of we weren’t fighting, we hang around together all the time, we grew up together and we’re always out together either way.
You’re both big fellas, who can put away more pints?
CS: It’d be a tight one.
Dean, how did you get the nickname Breakfast Roll?
DG: I think when my friends used call to me, the grandmother wouldn’t let me out until I finished my breakfast. So it stuck with me since.
If you do fight here in the final, half of the Clonmel crowd will shout for Breakfast Roll, the other half for Connie? Or just whoever’s winning?
DG: We all have the same friends so…
CS: It depends on who’s having the better crack with the lads during the week. They could turn around to me and say ‘I hope Breakfast knocks you out’ or turn around to him and say they hope I knock him out. They’ll be laughing. There’s loads of buzz with them.
Are your parents, families close at all?
CS: They know each other through the boxing. We played soccer and GAA together and everything the whole way up, so the parents would know each other. They had to be friendly enough when we were going around to the tournaments together when we were younger, going round to the club shows and all that.
I’ll say good luck lads, and let the best man win. One more question before we finish, is there an opportunity – with the absentees this year like Egan and Nevin and all the rest – to break into the limelight?
CS: I don’t think so now, being honest. I think the opportunity is always there, it’s just on the world stage. Winning these seniors is the only way to get there so that’s why we’re going to be pushing ourselves if we do get drawn together. That’s the only way to break into the limelight – to perform on the world stage and get among the medals. That’s the only way you can do it.