31 October 2008 – By Kevin Byrne
It must be tough to replace a personality like Darren Sutherland on the Irish amateur boxing team – but that is the very task facing Dungivens Eamon OKane.
Now based at Immaculata, Belfast, the former St Canices man and his clubmate Ryan Lindberg will represent Ireland in Liverpool at Novembers European Championships. Speaking to irish-boxing.com OKane revealed that he is happy to step into the void created by Sutherlands departure to the paid ranks – just dont suggest he is a newbie.
Ive been about, older heads and all of that! Ive been to European Championships, Commonwealth Championships, Commonwealth Games, a lot of world ranking multi-nations as well, the six-time Ulster champion said.
But I was around when Andy Lee and Darren Sutherland were on the scene. So I was over the moon when I won the Open Seniors this year. And Darren ONeill moving up to 81Kg as well, its closer to his natural weight, it means Im looking good for this one. Last year I won gold in the Commonwealth Championship in Liverpool, so hopefully its a lucky omen for me. We stayed in the same place then as well, so its nice to have good memories of there.
OKane may be happy to take his chance, but he is keen to stress that he has always been there or thereabouts, and his presence is the team has been greeted with enthusiasm in the camp. His chirpy presence around the dressing room suggests total confidence in his ability, and gives the impression that his time may be about to come after landing gold on Merseyside last year. He jokes with Irelands Georgian coach Zoar Antia that his Russian pseudonym could be Eamon Kenkanchenko. But he is corrected that his real alias would be closer to Eamon Nikarditzo by the mentor, with apologies for interpretive spelling. And there is no doubt that he is enjoying his new-found status as first-choice middleweight.
Its nice to be back in this team and ranked No 1 in the country, with Darren Sutherland going pro. Its good to be down here and not try to have to impress against Darren Sutherland or Andy Lee, I feel more relaxed now so Im coming into my own. Like I say, Ive been around, I had an Irish international in the summer against Poland up in Donegal so Ive been steady training.
OKane lost his bout by a single point to Maciej Adamiak, 14-15, despite forcing the Pole into a standing count in the third as Ireland took an 8-6 aggregate win over two legs.
OKane usually does the driving down to Dublin to train, with another joker in the pack clubmate Lindberg in tow. The bantamweights laughter is a constant throughout the teams penultimate training session before they head off to training camp in Sheffield before the Championships.
As Antia barks orders for the fighters to dance, Lindberg suggests an Irish dance with his laughing coach. Still, despite his light-hearted banter, he has big-time experience beyond is 20 years and has targeted a podium finish across the pond. John Joe Nevins form in China suggested a man who has the ability to dominate the bantamweight division in Ireland for years to come, but in Lindberg he has an opponent who refuses to give up his top billing without a scrap.
I ended up winning the Open Senior Competition after John Joe Nevin took a break. I have a good deal of experience, I was in the World Championships in Chicago last year. Im confident going across – you have to be, otherwise whats the point in it? The extra experience in the squad now with the Olympians now is pushing us on, and were learning off them as well. Im setting myself a target for a bronze – but once I achieve that Im setting my sights higher and higher. Bronze, no less, for me please!
Lindberg is hoping his battling ability can bring some profit in the Pool. And he just cant wait to get into the ring – the opponent depends on the draw and he feels ready for anything or anyone.
My style depends on what kind of a person Im fighting, Im more of a boxer, I use my range, have a fairly high tempo, I throw a lot of punches, he added.
We all came up together in this team, theres a good few of us who were all juniors at the same stage. Well all be watching each others fights, of course as thats what being on a team is all about.