Walsh and Nolan box clever
Wexford will have a dual interest in the national elite boxing championship finals after holders Dean Walsh and Adam Nolan successfully came through their bouts at the National Stadium on Friday.
However, the chances of making it a fantastic four appearances ended in disappointment at the same venue on the following night when Jason Kirwan and Eddie Byrne departed at the same stage.
Walsh, the reigning light-welterweight champion, came through a tough contest in the 64 kg. division to beat James Cleary of the Olympic club in Galway on a 2-1 split decision.
The European elite bronze medal winner certainly didn't have matters his own way before getting the verdict after a pulsating contest. And he will need to be at his very best to retain his national crown as his next opponent is the experienced Ray Moylette of St. Anne's in Mayo who beat Athlone's Wayne Kelly on another split decision 24 hours later.
Walsh has got the verdict against Moylette at the same stage before, and he will be no doubt motivated to make his next opponent eats his words after the Connacht man delivered plenty of fighting talk after his bout.
'The last time (with Walsh) it was very close, it could have gone either way. It's the same opposition, same final, but this time it will be a different result.
'Dean Walsh is an obstacle in the way that will have to be taken care of. I carried that burden with me (of losing to Walsh) the last couple of months. Those are the regrets, but there won't be any regrets this time,' he added. No doubt his St. Ibar's/St. Joseph's opponent will have plenty to say about that, and will let his boxing prowess do the real talking.
Meanwhile, Adam Nolan overcame the handicap of having a bye to the semi-final to see off Michael Bustard from Monkstown in Antrim 3-0 in the welterweight division.
The defending champion in the 69 kg. sector, the Bray clubman forced his opponent to take a count in the third round and was always well on top. He now needs just one more win for a fantastic fifth national crown, and the opposition will come from Martin Stokes of Holy Family in Drogheda who was an equally convincing majority verdict 3-0 winner over Caoimhín Hynes of Holy Trinity on Saturday.
'It's always good to get the first one out of the way,' Nolan said after his bout on Friday. 'I have another big test again next weekend. Finals, you know nothing comes easy.
'You're always apprehensive going into your first fight, nothing comes handy at this level.'
Nolan's former clubmate in The Ballagh, Jason Kirwan, came up against Mylie Casey from St. Francis in the 56 kg. semi-final on Saturday but unfortunately lost out 3-0.
And there was a similar scoreline in the 75 kg. penultimate round when Eddie Byrne of Na Fianna went down to Conor Wallace from St. Monica's in Newry, one week after recording his first Senior win at the National Stadium.
Now all of the focus will be on Dean Walsh and Adam Nolan as they aim to defend their titles in the National Stadium this coming Friday night.
There was universal praise for a Belfast fighter, T.J. Waite from the Ormeau Road club, who won his 52 kg. semi-final against an Antrim opponent 2-1 last Friday, just hours after the death of his mother following an illness.
Nolan tweeted his admiration for Waite afterwards, noting that he shared a dressing-room with him beforehand but wasn't aware of the personal grief he was going through.
In other boxing news, Billy Walsh saw his new charges in America fare well in his first competitive outing at an Olympic test event in Rio over the weekend. The Wexford man declared himself 'happy enough with the performances' after flyweight Virginia Fuchs won gold while Mikaela Mayer lost in a semi-final bout. A third fighter, Olympic champion Claressa Shields, withdrew owing to injury.
Next up for Walsh and his charges is a training camp starting this week in Sheffield which will conclude on December 20.