McCrory eyes some success in Liverpool

Seconds Out - Left Hooks

24th July 2007


Ulster president Pat McCrory is banking on a rich blend of youth and experience to bag medal honours at the Commonwealth Championships in Liverpool this week.

McCrory, who switches his Ulster chief role for an EABA technical delegate post at the Liverpool event, views the event as a building block for future Ulster success.

For the Glengormley clubman it’s also a way of keeping on board talented lads who haven’t yet made it through to Ireland’s High Performance Programme.

“This is a good competition for many of those Ulster boys who aren’t quite making the IABA High Performance panel, it’s one way of keeping them in the loop,’’ said McCrory.

“These lads are good candidates for the future and this competition is going to get them good experience.


“It will be a difficult enough competition. You have the likes of India, Canada, Australia and Tanzania. It will be tough enough,

“We know the Canadians will be particularly strong but then the lads will also have England as host nation to contend with, as well as Scotland and Wales.

“But we have seven strong boxers over here and young Eamonn Finnegan (Oliver Plunkett) got the team off to a winning start defeating a Cypriot 22-8 in his opening bout.

“He now boxes for a medal against a Malaysian opponent on Wednesday. This morning’s draw was favourable to the team with Paddy Barnes (Holy Family, Belfast) guaranteed a bronze at least after he received a bye into the light fly semi-finals.”

Northern Ireland coaches Gerard Nugent (Immaculata) and Paul McMahon (Newhill) will be hoping for more of the same as the competition continues.

In addition to Barnes and Finnegan, Jamie Conlon (St John Bosco), Ryan Lindberg (Immaculata), Steven Donnelly (All Saints, Ballymena), Willie McLaughlin (Illies GG) and seasoned international Eamonn O’Kane (Immaculata) make up the NI challenge in Liverpool.

“Ryan Lindberg had to be drafted on to the team at the last minute,’’ said McCrory.

“He was on international duty with Ireland over at the Ukraine and wasn’t available to compete here. We originally had young Marc McCullough from Cairn Lodge in at the weight.

“But then he went down with a chest infection and was ruled out by Dr Donnelly back home so we quickly drafted young Lindberg in.

“His fitness was spot on having been with the Irish team at the Ukraine training and multi-nations event and he should be an asset to the side.’’

Flyweight Conlon and bantam Lindberg will be in action today against English and Mauritius opposition, two of the 15 quarter-final bouts down for decision at the St George’s Hall.

A further 26 bouts, 16 on Wednesday, 20 on Thursday (Friday rest day) will be required to determine Saturday’s finalists in this 15-nation event.

And an intriguing lightweight contest could be on the cards for Ballymena’s Steven Donnelly if he can get past Scotland’s John Kelso tomorrow evening.

In his half of the 60kg draw and a potential semi-final opponent for Donnelly is one B Gillen (Wales).

He meets England’s Tom Stalker tomorrow and if successful will go head to head with Donnelly fighting for a place in Saturday’s final and the prospect of a silver medal or better.

Ulster boxing fans will know the ‘Welsh’ lad well.

He’s none other than former Ulster and Irish champion Brian Gillen, ex-Holy Trinity, now fully resident in Wales and who recently lifted the Welsh senior title.

In 2005, Commonwealth Games selection year, Gillen was controversially left out in the cold and deeply disillusioned by an Ulster Council decision to deny his request for special championship weigh-in arrangements to accommodate his travel from Wales.

Gillen was in many people’s eyes a Commonwealth Games medal winner in waiting.

The NI team failed to bring home a medal from those Games in Melbourne, reinforcing the widely-held belief that the decision to turn down his request was a grave mistake.



Boxing: O'Kane seals bronze but Lindberg exits

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eamonn O'Kane joined Paddy Barnes in the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Championships in Liverpool last night.

Middleweight O'Kane was in sparkling form in his quarter-final with KP Lewis of Mauritius but proved to be a disappointing night for Jamie Conlon and Ryan Lindberg.
O'Kane, a beaten finalist in this year's Irish senior championships, took a 6-1 lead into the second round and then went through the gears.
The Dungiven man simply overwhelmed his opponent and the bout was stopped on the 20-point outclassed rule.
O'Kane's Immaculata clubmate Ryan Lindberg suffered a surprise defeat in the quarter-finals of the bantamweight division.
Irish champion Lindberg was just a point down after the opening round but then allowed the contest to get away from him, going down 22-14 to LB Julie of Mauritius.
Jamie Conlon also lost when he went down 22-7 to England's Paul Butler at flyweight.

Today, Eamonn Finnegan, William McLaughlin and Steven Donnelly are all in quarter-final action.
Should lightweight Donnelly of All Saints ABC move through to the last four he could end up facing another Ulsterman, Brian Gillen for a place in the final.
Gillen, a former Ulster and Irish champion, is now living in and representing Wales.

Belfast man Barnes is delighted to have at least secured a bronze, without even throwing a punch.
Following on from his heartache at the EU Championships when he was forced out due to an eye injury, Barnes wants nothing less than gold in Liverpool.
" What happened at the EU Championships nearly did my head in, I couldn't believe it - I had bleeding around the retina," said light-fly Barnes.
"Now I've got at least a bronze I want to get the gold. I'm just glad to have the chance after the EU championships."



Boxing: Ulster pair stay on the medal trail

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Steven Donnelly and Eamonn Finnegan continued the Northern Ireland success at the Commonwealth boxing championships in Liverpool yesterday.

Donnelly, who has moved up to lightweight, sealed at least bronze when he won his quarter-final contest with Scotland's Joe Kelso 37-19.
The All Saints ABC lad got off to a fine start and was 6-2 ahead after the opening two minutes as his quick hands and sharp footwork gave the Scot plenty of trouble.
Donnelly found Kelso a little harder to handle in the second round, though he still edged it 9-7.
Then came the crucial third when Donnelly managed to pick off his opponent with some great counter-punching.
Kelso knew that at the midway point he had to be more aggressive but Donnelly simply measured him up and made him pay and he took the round 13-3.
Donnelly will now meet England's Tom Stalker in today's semi-finals when Finnegan, Eamonn O'Kane and Paddy Barnes all box for a place in the finals.
Donnelly said: "I'm delighted with my performance. The third round was crucial."

Stalker was a surprise winner over former Ulster senior champion Brian Gillen, now boxing for Wales, 31-18.
Gillen, who used to box for Holy Trinity, had hoped to progress to an 'all-Ulster' showdown with Donnelly.

Featherweight Finnegan produced the win of his career when he overcame a Malaysian E Kalai, 25-10.
The opening two rounds were very tight with the Belfast man edging both 4-3 but then, just like Donnelly, he managed to find an extra gear in the third round.
Finnegan, of the Oliver Plunkett gym, drove forward and landed some superb combinations.
Having taken the round decisively, 12-2 he was now in full control and the bronze was safe.
Finnegan will now meet Scotland's Jamie Hastie for a place in the final.

But there was disappointment for Willie McLaughlin as he exited the championships at the quarter-final stage.
McLaughlin went down 34-21 to England's BJ Saunders in their welterweight clash.

Meanwhile, Belfast man Barnes meets Tanzania's Hassan Abdallah for a shot at gold later today.

PROMOTER Frank Warren says there is no reason why light welterweight champion Gavin Rees could not meet Ricky Hatton.
"Why shouldn't it happen?" said Warren. "Gavin's undefeated, he was highly ranked before his out-of-the-ring problems, now he's back with a title.
"Gavin has a mandatory defence against Andreas Kotelnik, but before that we hope to get him a voluntary defence on Joe Calzaghe's 3 November undercard."
Rees, 27, won the WBA title from Souleymane M'Baye on Saturday night.





Boxing: Barnes hopes to lead bid for triple whammy

Commonwealth Championships

Friday, July 27, 2007

Paddy Barnes greeted his place in the light-flyweight final at the Commonwealth Championships with a mixture of relief and joy.

Barnes had suffered a horrible eye injury at the EU Championships last month when he suffered bleeding behind the retina, which forced him out and spoiled his hopes of a medal.
Last night in Liverpool Barnes forced a stoppage of Tanzania's Hassan Abdallah in the third round of their semi-final, winning on the outscored 20-point rule.
Now he has his sights on gold and any concerns over his eye seem to have left him.
"I took a whack on the eye and there are no problems so that's a worry gone," said Holy Family man Barnes, who meets a Malaysian in the decider tomorrow.
"Now I'm in the final I'm only thinking about getting the gold.
"It's a great opportunity and it would great to the gold after what I've been through."
Barnes brought his usual relentless aggression to the ring last night and overwhelmed Abdallah.
"I was just too quick for him. Right from the first bell I was out after him and I never let him settle and it worked a treat."
Barnes now wants to see Northern Ireland walk away with three gold medals tomorrow.
Barnes was joined in the finals by featherweight Eamonn Finnegan and middleweight Eamonn O'Kane but Steven Donnelly of All Saints had to settle for bronze after losing to England's Tom Stalker in an exciting duel, 22-20.
Finnegan had the victory of his career when he defeated Scotland's James Hastie 13-9. Now he faces England's Steven Smith for gold.
The hat-trick of victories was completed by Dungiven man O'Kane, who is guaranteed at least a third successive silver medal from these championships.
O'Kane defeated M Singh of India 32-7 with a fine display of pressure fighting.




BBC Sport

Last Updated: Saturday, 28 July 2007, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK

Ulster boxers secure gold medals
Eamonn O'Kane
Immaculata's Eamon O'Kane beat George Groves
Two Ulster boxers won gold medals at the Commonwealth championships in Liverpool on Saturday night.

At middleweight, Dungiven's Eamon O'Kane won a thrilling final against England's George Groves by 34-33.

Light-flyweight Patrick Barnes defeated T N Singh of India 30-22 in his final but featherweight Eamon Finnegan lost 21-1 to England's Steven Smith.

Ballymena lightweight Stephen Donnelly won a bronze after losing to Tom Stalker of England by a stoppage.


Quartet aim for gold
Boxing: Commonwealth Championships
28th July 2007

FOUR Commonwealth Cha-mpionship medals will be shipped back to the north from Liverpool this weekend and Ulster President Pat McCrory is keeping his fingers crossed that some are gold.

Ulster trio Eamon O’Kane, Eamon Finnegan and Patrick Barnes have hit the heights in Liverpool this week and will try and exchange silver for gold in tonight’s championship finals.

All Saints’ Stephen Donnelly also pocketed a bronze for the Northern Ireland team in what has been a great week for local boxing.

“We came out here with seven boxers and we’ll bring home four medals,” beamed McCrory.

“We’re very happy with our performance; it’s been above our expectations to tell you the truth because it’s quite a young team.

“For some of the lads it’s been their first taste of international competition. If someone had have offered us two medals before the championships began we would’ve broken their arm off for them.

“It would be great if we came home with four medals in every international competition.

“And when you take into consideration we didn’t have John Sweeney (heavyweight) or Cathal McMonagle (super heavyweight) here makes our performance even more impressive.”

Oliver Plunkett rookie Eamon Finnegan has been the north’s surprise package in Liverpool this week and will be aiming for gold against England’s Steven Smith in the 57kg decider tonight.

“Young Finnegan has been a great surprise,” added McCrory. “He’s won three great contests to get to Saturday’s final. It’s his first tournament of this calibre. Eamon only got into the team when Carl Frampton opted out and there’s no doubt it was a risk taking him because he’s so inexperienced.

“If he’d suffered a heavy defeat it could have affected him for a long time, so we decided to take the risk and he’s done brilliantly.”

Holy Family’s Patrick Barnes may yet be the north’s best chance of golden success tonight when he takes on Indian finalist TN Singh.

The light featherweight enjoyed a dominant semi-final win over Tanzania’s FH Abdallah on the 20-point rule and will enter tonight’s 48kg decider with some confidence.

Immaculata’s experienced Eamon O’Kane has reached the 75kg final after cruising through his category in midweek. The Derryman takes on Englishman George Groves to decide the gold medal.

“The English are hard to beat on their own patch so Finnegan and O’Kane will be up against it,” noted McCrory. “It could mean Paddy Barnes is our best bet for a gold medal. Although I have to say the judging has been pretty fair, but on home ground some boxers lift their performance.”

McCrory, who paid tribute to both trainers Paul McMahon and Gerard Nugent for their endeavours, said that if O’Kane “keeps a cool head” and boxes the clever Groves he can claim gold.

Despite the advances made by the north’s four medalists, the stand-out performance for McCrory was William McLaughlin’s gutsy battle against BJ Saunders.

“William may have lost but he showed that he has a heart like a lion and is one to watch in the future. In fact, the other boys who lost were beaten by finalists and possibly gold medalists, so it’s been a brilliant few days for the team and we hope we have a few golds to celebrate as well.”


Barnes and O’Kane star as North are to the four
Boxing: Commonwealth Championships
30 July 2007

NORTHERN Ireland completed an impressive

four-medal haul at the Commonwealth Championships, with Saturday’s two golds for Patrick Barnes and Eamonn O’Kane capping a great week in Liverpool.

Throw in a silver for Eamon Finnegan and bronze for Stephen Donnelly and there was no wonder Ulster president Pat McCrory was a delighted man.

McCrory was attending the championships in his

capacity as a technical delegate for the IABA, but was pleasantly surprised at the performance of the Northern Ireland team.

“It was a fantastic performance by an inexperienced young team,” said McCrory.

“Two medals, I would’ve been happy with. I’d have broken your arm for two medals before the championships.”

The Northern Ireland team were coached by Immaculata’s Gerry ‘Nugget’ Nugent and Newhill’s Paul McMahon, and McCrory praised the way the fighters were prepared for the


“Fair play to the coaches.They were one of the fittest teams there. Okay, lacking a wee bit maybe in skill and experience, but that’s all going to come,” he added.

For Immaculata’s Eamonn O’Kane, it was a case of third time lucky at the Commonwealth Championship, with the Dungiven native having won silvers in Kuala Lumpur and Glasgow previously.

Saturday night was to be his golden night in a

pulsating four rounds of toe-to-toe boxing which proved to be the fight of the


Middleweight O’Kane started well against Englishman George Groves, winning the first round 11-7. The second round was a tighter affair as Groves responed to vocal home support and from then on, it was almost impossible to separate the fighters.

The second round was a tied affair, 7-7, and although O’Kane won the third, 9-6, it was only in the dying

seconds of the round that he reeled off the three shots that gave him the edge.

The final round saw both fighters continue to trade punch for punch with both leading and levelling on numerous occassions.

Groves took a two-point lead late in the round, but O’Kane fought back and gained an identical

advantage before his opponent nicked another just before the bell. But O’Kane held out for an epic 34-33 win.

Holy Family light featherweight Patrick Barnes was also made to battle for his bronze against Indian TH Singh.

Barnes looked comfortable in the opening round, opening up a 9-6 lead against the dogged southpaw. But after getting caught with a sweet left hand in the second and losing the round 4-7, all the momentum was with his opponent.

However, he managed to stay on his own left in the third round, limiting the damage from Singh and won the remaining two rounds for a 30-22 victory.

Eamon Finnegan came up against a fierce English opponent in Steven Smith and was stopped after his opponent stretched his lead to 20 points with the last punch of the third round.

However, Ulster president McCrory was confident the 18-year-old Oliver Plunkett’s man will have gained valuable experience .

“It was great experience for him to get a silver.

He was maybe under a wee bit of pressure, but the experience he has gained from this will help in his future career,” added McCrory.


Boxing: Pain and gain for O'Kane

Monday, July 30, 2007

Eamonn O'Kane was in a state of exhaustion after a final that seemed too intense for his own good.

O'Kane had just beaten England's ABA champion George Groves in a middleweight decider at the Commonwealth Championships that had the fans in Liverpool's St George's Hall gasping at the ferocity.

The Dungiven man was a point down going into the final round and when the final bell sounded the margin was in his favour, 34-33.

This golden performance followed on from the success of light-fly Paddy Barnes, while Eamonn Finnegan had to settle for silver.

"I can hardly lift my right arm and the left side of my face is all swollen up. I can't believe how hard that was. The lads want to head out, I just want to head to bed," said O'Kane shortly after he and Groves had received a standing ovation.

The congratulations from fans and fellow boxers was relentless as he left the arena with many ringsiders, including former Ulster heavyweight champion Ben McGarrigle, believing the contest was one of the finest amateur contests ever seen in a British ring.

"I never saw a round like that final round in my life. It was an incredible fight," said McGarrigle.

For O'Kane it is an amazing turnaround as just 12 months ago he was preparing for retirement, a decision that was made before the Commonwealth Games but compounded by those championships as he felt robbed of a medal.

" My wife Nicola told me to go back to boxing because she said I needed some vindication. She could see how angry I was about the Commonwealth Games, so she deserves a lot of credit for backing me all the way," added O'Kane, who took a 12-10 lead into the second round.

The Ulster senior champion had forced Groves to take a count but admitted: "At that moment I was gone but when he got the count I managed to recover."

In the second O'Kane had to take a count and found himself 22-20 down at the midway point.

The third round was another stamina-sapping two minutes as they tried to break each other's will but O'Kane got to within a point at 28-27 and then came more of the same until the last 10 seconds when he knew he was ahead.

"I heard someone shouting at me to get on my bike because I was ahead and I managed to stay out of trouble," he said.

"It's the hardest fight I've ever been in by far. I've fought Andy Lee, Darren Sutherland, Darren O'Neill, the top boys in Ireland, but that guy hits an awful lot harder.

"I have to say if it wasn't for the conditioning that I had and the advice I couldn't have won and I have to thank Nugget Nugent, Paul McMahon, Alfredo Meli and Pat McCrory. It was a real team effort and I think it's great that Northern Ireland is coming back with four medals."

Light-flyweight Barnes is hoping that his performance will persuade the Irish Amateur Boxing Association to select him for the World Championships in Chicago in October.

Barnes outpointed India's TN Singh 30-22, despite having a count in he opening round which he won 9-6.

"I let myself get caught with a couple of silly shots but I still felt comfortable about the fight, even when it was 13-all after the second round. I think I've shown that I belong on the international stage and the IABA should be sending all the Irish senior champions to the World Championships."

Eamonn Finnegan's fine run came to an end when he was defeated on the outscored rule in the third round of his featherweight decider with England's Steven Smith, while Steven Donnelly of All Saints returns with bronze.



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