14 February 2009 – By Mark Doyle
Darren ONeill moved one step closer to claiming his hitherto elusive first National Elite Championship title by defeating Eamon OKane in an absorbing middleweight semi-final clash on Saturday night.
Paulstown pugilist ONeill, who was defeated by the now professional Darren Sutherland in last years 75kg decider, was put under constant pressure by European bronze medallist OKane.
However, ONeills superior power ultimately proved decisive. Indeed, the Kilkenny man not only dropped OKane in the opening round, he also left him with a bloodied nose to boot.
It was an uphill task for OKane thereafter and although he came forward relentlessly, ONeills classy counter-punching saw him claim a deserved 10-4 victory.
Whereas the dream is still alive for O’Neill, Ray Moylettes bid for a first Senior title was ended by three-time lightweight champion Eric Donovan.
World junior champion Moylette never led at any point during the contest but launched a stirring fightback after falling four points behind midway through the final round.
Working well to the body, Moylette drew to within a single point in the dying seconds but, despite a thrilling late flurry, he failed to score and missed out on a countback by the narrowest of margins (7-8).
If the fight had gone on for even a further 30 seconds, one suspects that the Mayo native would have prevailed but, ultimately, Donovans greater experience and superior ring savvy proved the difference between the two and this should be viewed a fantastic learning experience for the vanquished Moylette.
Meanwhile, another medallist from last years World Championships in Mexico, light-welterweight Jamie Kavanagh, also bowed out at the semi final stage, the Crumlin boxer sadly forced to withdraw from his clash with club-mate Philip Sutcliffe through injury.
Kavanagh was 5-3 ahead when he sustained a cut above his left eye which the ringside doctor deemed too severe to allow the fight to continue.
It was unfortunate not just for Kavanagh but also those in attendance, as the bout had been warming up nicely at the time.
Elsewhere, Thomas McCarthy set up an intriguing light-heavyweight showdown with Olympic silver medallist Kenny Egan after digging dig to see off Brendan Fitzpatrick in fantastic semi-final clash.
McCarthy never looked comfortable against his extremely well-supported opponent from West Finglas, and the Oliver Plunketts stylist was repeatedly tagged with big right hooks as he attempted to dance his way out of trouble.
However, McCarthy stuck to his game plan well and his good work on the outside was eventually rewarded in the final round, which he won 4-1 to sneak through 9-6 overall.
The opening bout of the night saw Declan Geraghty qualify for the lightweight decider in his first ever appearance at the Seniors with a mightily impressive 13-5 victory over last years runner-up, Ruairi Dalton.
The 18-year-old Geraghty trailed by two points (3-1) at the end of the first but dominated thereafter, demonstrating rapid handspeed and nimble footwork as he reeled off six unanswered points to tip the bout decisively in his favour.
Dalton was given a brief flicker of hope in the third when he was awarded two points after Geraghty was warned for leading with the head.
However, the comeback never truly appeared on and Geraghty boxed beautifully on the back foot, sealing a fine victory with three superbly-timed counter punches (one right and two lefts) in the closing seconds.
Elsewhere, Ryan Lindberg will meet Olympian John Joe Nevin in the 54kg final after claiming a commanding 7-1 last-four victory over Danny Coughlan.
St Annes boxer Coughlan was actually level for a short period in the second round but Lindberg produced some neat scoring combinations to pull two points clear before utterly bossing the final round.
Indeed, Coughlan failed to put any pressure on Lindberg in the closing three minutes but, in truth, he wasnt allowed to, and the latter was well deserving of his six-point margin of victory.
Meanwhile, Carl Frampton had a surprisingly easy night of it against Kevin Fennessy.
Frampton was 10-0 up in the second when Fennessys corner elected to throw in the towel, so disappointed were the Clonmel contingent with what they perceived as unjust scoring.
It certainly did appear that a number of clean shots from Fennessy went unrewarded and that understandably caused frustration. However, Midland ace Frampton was undoubtedly well on top and would surely have come out on top had Fennessys trainers not halted proceedings prematurely.
Another bout which did not go the distance was Alan Reynolds heavyweight clash with John Sweeney.
Dungloes Sweeney threatened an upset early on, opening up a 4-1 lead after in the first.
However, Reynolds came storming back in the second, and had drawn level at seven points apiece when he rocked Sweeney with two huge shots which forced the Donegal man into taking a standing eight count.
Unsurprisingly, Reynolds piled on the pressure in the third and the referee stopped the fight when Sweeney was sent crashing to the canvas midway through the round.
Sligos Reynolds will now meet reigning champion Con Sheehan in Fridays heavyweight final.
Intriguingly, this years super-heavyweight final will pit two brothers against one another, after David Joyce of Moate saw off Thomas Crampton of St Bronaghs 7-0 to set up a clash with sibling Joe.
Coincidentally, Joe saw off Cramptons brother, Anthony, in the other 91+kg semi-final 24 hours previously.
Meanwhile, Cathal McCauley turned in an authoritative display in his 16-3 victory over Fergal Redmond of Arklow and the Dungloe man will now meet Willie McLoughlin, Roy Sheahan’s conqueror, in this years welterweight final.