26 February 2009 – By Kevin Byrne
The RTE cameras had been packed away by that stage, some punters had gone home. Still, many remained in the National Stadium to witness the best night of Wille McLoughlins life.
The Illies Golden Gloves welterweight became Irish Senior champion for the first time on February 20 after three fights in three weeks culminated in an all-Donegal decider against Cathal McCauley.
Hordes of fans had travelled south to witness the scrap, won by McLoughlin when the referee stopped the contest in the second. Plenty more were annoyed when the national broadcaster did not show it – having made do with filling gaps (due to two walkovers on the night) with interviews. This fight began at 11.10 – programmes ended at 11. Organisation on the night has been criticised in McLoughlin’s home county – after all, the derby was what they were waiting for.
But for McLoughlin and his overjoyed fans who scrambled to get a piece of the champ afterwards, that was the least of their worries.
Best night of your life? he was asked. Aye definitely, big time, responded McLoughlin. He was very strong and it was nice to catch him with a big shot at the end. I wasnt too sure what the score was as the scoring wasnt working on the screens.
I asked my corner a few times and they had no information to give me. Even when I was one up after the first round I thought it was around 3-2 or 3-1.
McLoughlins brother fought McCauley a few years back. He won two, lost two. But Willie has gone further, down a different track. Although this was his first Senior belt, he had been Irelands representative at 69Kg for the past year.
Three-time champion Roy Sheahan broke his hand last year, just weeks after retaining his belt. So McLoughlin stepped in and in the process, took the international experience that duly followed. And he showed how far he had come on in his semi-final this year against Sheahan. Winning a close fight 7-5, McLoughlin could have been forgiven for thinking that the belt was virtually his.
My brother fought Cathal about three or four years ago when he used to box and Cathal beat him twice and my brother beat him twice, so it was interesting. I never sparred him before myself so it was good to get a win,” he enthused.
After beating Roy I did in a way (feel the title was in the bag) when my coaches were celebrating but I says to them: Ive won nothing yet, I still have to beat Cathal. I knew hed be in the final because he got the easier side of the draw. I got the tough side. The first lad (Thomas Blaney, preliminaries) I only beat him by five last year – this year I beat him by 22 so it shows how much Ive come on.
After his final victory over McCauley, he was congratulated first by his fans, but soon natonal coach Zoar Antia paid a visit. THOMAS he grinned, before having a quiet word in his ear. And McLoughlin feels working with such coaches – with the experience they possess – has helped him blossom from bridesmaid to bride in 2009.
When we seen Roy in his first fight we thought he wasnt fully well. International experience is unbelievable to me, I notice a mighty difference in the speed and power that I gained. The difference in the technique you learn punching brings you on, he said.
The way the scoring works was totally different when I went out to the EUs and Europeans and qualifiers. You get to see the way it really works and that helps in the Irish final.
I never imagined Id come down here and win this. I knew I was training hard, Ive trained unbelievably and the club coaches have put in some effort. I didnt really dream of this but I felt I could beat anybody – I felt I could beat Roy – no question about it. Roy is a top-class performer and as nice a fella as youd get in a boxing ring but Im glad I won it.