Walsh and Nolan in awesome form
Last Friday was a fantastic night for Wexford sports fans in the home of boxing at the National Stadium on Dublin's South Circular Road.
Two young pugilists from the south-east won National Senior Elite titles which will now give them the opportunity to attempt to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio next year.
First into the ring in the 69 kg. final was Oulart-The Ballagh man Adam Nolan, bidding to win his fourth Senior title. His opponent was the former Beijing Olympian and four-time champion John Joe Joyce from Athy.
When Adam entered the ring there was a noticeable difference in his physical conditioning and attitude, compared to the boxer who relinquished his title last year. From the first bell the Wexford man took control of the ring and proceeded to use his left jab to keep Joyce at bay and dictate the pace of the fight.
Nolan was the more aggressive fighter and scored with both hands as Joyce found it hard to cope with the combatant style of the Bray clubman.
Roared on by his brother, Darren, and Pete Taylor in the corner, and a large Wexford contingent at the ringside, Adam totally dominated rounds two and three, and even managed to throw in a bit of showboating in the last such was his lead.
It was the most convincing victory by any boxer on the night and one of the best performances of Nolan's career. He looked in great condition even after three tough rounds and could have gone on for another few minutes if needed.
The announcement of a unanimous decision was no surprise to the stadium crowd, but the joy and excitement of Adam, his coaches and his fans was an indication of what it meant to him.
He has been through a tough year where he seriously contemplated retirement, but after a lot of soul searching and encouragement from family and friends he decided at 28 years of age that he still had something to offer at the elite level of his sport.
Adam knew he would have to work even harder than ever before, but the decision turned out to be the right one as he regained the title of number one boxer in Ireland in his weight again.
Next into the ring from a Wexford perspective was light welter Dean Walsh, the reigning champion. His opponent was the experienced campaigner Ray Moylette from Mayo, a former Senior champion, World Youth champion and European Senior champion in 2011.
This was one of the most eagerly-awaited fights of the night and turned out to be a great contest. The worst kept secret in Irish boxing was the serious injury to his right hand that Dean had picked up in the semi-final, so he had to devise a plan where he could win despite the handicap.
With the help of coaches Billy Walsh, Nicky Keane and his dad Donal, he did just that, frustratrating his opponent with continuous left jabs and some excellent defence.
In the first round Dean laid down a marker as he controlled the pace of the fight, scored with the left and won the round. The second round was a lot closer with Moylette coming out more aggressively and trying to get inside the Wexford man's tight defence.
Moylette showed his experience by finishing strongly in the last 30 seconds and as a result he just shaded the round on the judges' scorecard.
It was all down to the last round and both boxers and their corner men knew it. Walsh showed a maturity beyond his years when he continued with his gameplan and fought a controlled fight.
His physical conditioning was superb and he continued to be the aggressor, using both hands to frustrate his opponent. At the final bell both boxers were convinced they had won, and so were the large amounts of supporters from both camps.
A majority decision announcement added to the tension, but the name crowning Dean Walsh as Senior Elite champion brought another large roar from the Wexford contingent. The dream of being champion in Olympic qualifying year has been achieved at the tender age of 20.
This is just another chapter in the Wexford sporting journal but hopefully there is a lot more to come from these two sporting heroes. Both are firm friends and helped each other prepare for the championships with some tough training sessions and aggressive sparring over the Christmas period.
The hard work paid off but the real work is only beginning as they set off on an Olympic qualifying journey as part of the Irish Elite boxing squad. Let's hope Adam and Dean both stay fit and injury free in pursuit of their dreams.