All Saints at double
Vinny Esler and Enda Kennedy spanned a 15-year gap when they completed an All Saints ABC double at the Ulster Intermediate championships in the Dockers Club last night.
Esler and Kennedy's success matched that of the men in their corner, cousins TJ and Dermott Hamill who also won titles on the same night for the Ballymena club – in the same venue back in 1998.
Kennedy got the ball rolling when he landed the lightweight title with a measured display of boxing against Chris McPeake of St John's.
The Toome man has only been with the All Saints club for six months but already you can see an improvement in his all-round approach and having lost to James Tennyson in last year's decider he made no mistake this time.
Kennedy picked his shots with good accuracy as McPeake drove forward and after comfortably taking the opening round, a quick burst of blows finished by a left hook led referee Sadie Duffy to give McPeake a count.
McPeake was showing plenty of heart as he kept marching forward but Kennedy – looking a great deal more composed – maintained his control and was handed a unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-25, 30-26.
"It's great to finally get my hands on the Ulster intermediate title. I lost in the final last year and the year before in the semis but tonight I felt great. I feel that I'm improving and now I have the Irish intermediates coming up," said Kennedy.
Shortly afterwards, Esler stepped through the ropes for an excellent light-welterweight contest with former Irish junior champion Darren Pollock of St Agnes and the Ballymena man gave arguably the performance of his career so far.
As Pollock looked to load up his big shots, Esler picked him off and then skipped and pivoted away out of trouble.
Pollock's best work was at close range when he could land his short hooks but Esler rarely allowed him time to settle as he rammed home his jab and a flashing right uppercut which slapped back his opponent's head just moments before the end of the second.
Pollock arguably outworked Esler in the final round as the All Saints man looked to stay on the retreat but he clearly deserved the 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 decision.
"I was really on my game tonight, I knew it would be tough but I boxed smart tonight – for a change!"
Brendan Irvine of St Paul's, Belfast and Darryl Moran are going to have a rivalry for many years to come if last night's barnburner of a light-flyweight contest is anything to go by.
Irvine, 17, came out on top after three rounds boxed at a breathless pace which had a packed Dockers roaring their approval from start to finish.
Both men landed a series of hooks to body and head in the opening three minutes but slick moving Irvine deserved it.
The pace was unrelenting and while there was little between the two as they blazed away at close quarters, Irvine once more had the edge with a succession of clean blows, mixing it up from body to head with ease.
There was no disputing who won the final round as Irvine rattled home a series of body blows which took their toll on the game Donegal lad Moran who tired in the last half of what was a memorable bout.
Irvine, winning the Ulster title at the first attempt (30-27, 29-28, 29-28), said: "It's really special for me to win this title. I have trained really hard and it was a very tough contest but I reckon I could have done another two rounds!"
Despite his superb performance, coaches Ralph McKay and Mark O'Neill insisted that he would not be going to the Irish intermediates in a fortnight's time as he needs a rest.
Moran's fellow Illies Golden Gloves clubmate Thomas Mongan outpointed Eamonn McNally of St Agnes 29-28, 28-29 30-27 to win the bantamweight title after a tough battle between the two southpaws.