Saturday 20 January 2018

Alan Aherne's On The Line column

Our brilliant boxers marry honour and respect with talent

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

It takes exceptional ability to capture a national title in any sporting discipline, but defending the crown is another matter entirely.

Winning for the first time is a special feeling, and it immediately places the team or individual on a pedestal. The element of surprise is gone, and the victor is there to be targeted and knocked off the perch.

The more talented and focused adapt to the new situation and add further riches to the honours list, but many others end up as 'one-hit wonders' and never reach the same heights again.

And that's why the achievements of our boxers in the National Stadium on Friday should be a source of immense pride to all Wexford people as they continue to represent our county with such distinction.

Not alone have they attained standards of excellence, they have maintained it over a consistent period of time. In Dean Walsh's case, the pride of Wolfe Tone Villas held on to his light-welterweight crown for the third year on the trot, while experienced Ballagh native Adam Nolan collected a fantastic fifth national title in the welterweight category.

I have the height of admiration for what both men achieved in the ring on Friday, and fair play to Adam who went into battle with a heavy heart following the sad passing of his grandmother, Mrs. May Devereux of Castlebridge, on the eve of the finals.

He was following his family's wishes by fighting rather than withdrawing from the contest, and he did them all proud with a unanimous 3-0 victory over Drogheda teenager Martin Stokes in the 69 kg. category.

Adam had a new guiding light in heaven to see him home, just as Dean's late grandfather, Liam, is never too far away from his corner whenever the young St. Ibar's/St. Joseph's star enters the ring.

He was involved in one of the best bouts of the night at 64 kg. weight, getting the verdict in one of just two split decisions from the ten contests on the busy programme.

I have always admired boxers for one key aspect of their sport above all others: the respect shown to opposing fighters and trainers in the immediate aftermath of each contest, and the honourable manner in which the vast majority of verdicts are accepted.

It says a lot about the inner discipline instilled into amateur boxers when they conduct themselves so well after a nine-minute pummelling. And when that protocol isn't followed, it paints an unfavourable picture of the sport which it simply doesn't deserve.

Ray Moylette made a show of himself with his reaction to Friday's loss to Dean, leaving the ring to soak in the adulation of his followers and behaving like he was hard done by. It was an astonishing act of petulance from an experienced boxer.

The Mayo man had been mouthing off about what he was going to do to Dean in the national press during the week, but there's no point talking the talk when you can't do the business where it matters most: in the tight confines of the ring.

Our man stared him down while the referee set out the ground rules, and just over ten minutes later he was celebrating with the kind of dignity that all of us have come to expect from the Walsh family.

We are blessed to have such a fantastic sporting role model for young children on our doorsteps, and I know that Dean is like the pied piper whenever he enters St. Joseph's and his young fans flock around him.

There had been intense speculation in the days leading up to the finals that his uncle, Billy, would return to his corner as he was in the U.K. at a training camp with his new charges in the U.S. women's team.

However, the plans were scuppered when the squad arrived one day later than scheduled in Sheffield. At any rate, the cat had been let out of the bag by someone so Billy's return would have lost its surprise value.

In hindsight, perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing. Dean needs to adjust to life without his uncle constantly by his side, and anyway his father, Donal, and Nicky Keane are superbly equipped for the job.

Now our three-in-a-row hero has Rio in his sights, and the people of Wexford are behind him all the way.

Wexford People

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