Irvine boosts Olympic hopes with Dublin win
Belfast fighter Brendan Irvine and Lisburn's Kurt Walker emerged victorious but lightweight Seán McComb lost his Irish title at the National Elite Championship finals at the National Stadium in Dublin.
The finals of 2016 national seniors took place last night, with the tournament staged over the last month as the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) opted to schedule the competition early in preparation for Olympic qualifiers next year.
Team Ireland have so far qualified four boxers for the Rio 2016 Olympics - Michael Conlan (56kg), Paddy Barnes (49kg), Joe Ward (81kg) and Steven Donnelly (69kg) - meaning national finalists at those weights were only fighting for national pride last night.
All four of those qualifiers did not participate in the 2016 tournament having already booked their tickets for next summer's Rio games.
But slots for the Olympics remain at six weight classes, with McComb's challenge severely hit by his loss to David Oliver Joyce while Irvine boosted his challenge with a win in a battle of Belfast against TJ Waite.
Joyce upset defending champion McComb of the Holy Trinity club as the Athy challenger put in a bullish and aggressive display to claim a split decision in the bout.
Meanwhile, Irvine claimed he will 'enjoy his turkey at Christmas before Turkey in April' after assuring himself of a place at the European Olympic qualifiers in Istanbul next April.
The 19-year-old flyweight claimed his second Irish title of the year last night, taking the 52kg crown having won out at 49kg in the 2015 edition of the tournament.
Shankill Road native Waite showed great courage participating in the tournament, winning his semi-final last weekend just hours after the death of his mother.
Meanwhile, Lisburn's bantamweight champion Walker retained his 56kg title, recording a 3-0 unanimous win over Myles Casey, brother of former European pro champion Willie.
Limerick's Casey, the 2015 flyweight champion, was moving up in weight but failed to trouble Canal club man Walker, who boxed superbly at range throughout.
Unfortunately for Walker, however, the outstanding Conlan is already qualified for Rio at the 56kg category.
At middleweight, World Championship medallist Michael O'Reilly claimed a 3-0 unanimous win and a third Irish title in a row after seeing off Connor Wallace of Newry.