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Kellie Harrington inspired my comeback, says Team NI ace Eireann Nugent

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Northern Ireland’s Eireann Nugent (right) and England’s Jodie Wilkinson during the Women’s Light Middle Quarter-Final

Northern Ireland’s Eireann Nugent (right) and England’s Jodie Wilkinson during the Women’s Light Middle Quarter-Final

PA

Rosie Eccles

Rosie Eccles

PA

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Northern Ireland’s Eireann Nugent (right) and England’s Jodie Wilkinson during the Women’s Light Middle Quarter-Final

It could be a super Saturday for Northern Ireland’s boxers as seven are in Semi-Final action at the Commonwealth Games.

While the Walsh siblings Michaela and Aidan, Dylan Eagleson, Carly McNaul and Amy Broadhurst have almost been expected to reach the last-four in their respective divisions despite some tough draws, these Games has seen the emergence of Jude Gallagher who has announced his arrival in fine style.

Yet another first-timer in Eireann Nugent is something of a road to deception for the Immaculata woman who comes from a famous fighting family.

Grandfather Gerry ‘Nugget’ Nugent is synonymous with boxing in Belfast, while her father, Ciaran Healy, is an ex-professional.

It comes as no surprise that Eireann was immersed in the sport at a young age, but she walked away at the age of 18 and it was 11 years before she returned to the Divis club.

Inspired by former sparring partner Kellie Harrington who won gold at last year’s Olympic Games, it was a defeat to the Dubliner in the 2011 National Elite Quarter-Final that seemed as though it would be her swansong in the sport.

But back she came and she wasted no time in announcing the return with victory over Kris Anne Mulder in the middleweight Final at the Eindhoven Cup in June.

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“Life just got in the way: work, relationships, life,” said Nugent.

“I beat myself up about it — shoulda, woulda, coulda — watching everyone who I was on the High Performance team with excel in the sport.

“I thought maybe I was a bit too old to make a comeback, but watching Kellie Harrington win gold in the Olympics inspired me.

“Kellie is older than me and she achieved her dreams by staying 100% dedicated, so I came back 100% dedicated myself. I put the work in and I’m hungrier than ever.”

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Rosie Eccles

Rosie Eccles

PA

Rosie Eccles

Starting again was far from easy and grandfather Gerry worked her hard to get her back into fighting shape.

That along with numerous rounds of sparring against former British featherweight champion Martin Lindsay helped her get back into shape and that engine was there for all to see in Wednesday’s light-middleweight Quarter-Final win over Jodie Wilkinson that guaranteed at least bronze.

A similar performance against Rosie Eccles in this morning’s Semi-Final would give her every chance of continuing the fairytale comeback.

Nugent admitted it was somewhat unbelievable to be part of the team, having been away from the sport for so long, but as Wilkinson found to her cost this week, the west Belfast woman has travelled with intent.

“I got back into the sport to work on my mental health and then when the weight started coming off I was at 80-odd kilos,” she reflected.

“The weight kept coming down and I entered the Ulsters at 66kg. With that weight being dropped, I chose to go back up to 70kg so I could get selected for the Commonwealths — it’s easier to go up.

“I’m just over the moon to be selected for the team as I worked so hard to get picked, but I want to go far.”


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