Mark O'Hara Games bid in balance after upset
Mark O'Hara walked away from a packed Dockers Club in utter disbelief that his bid to represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games had just been hit by a savage blow.
O'Hara, favourite to win the light-welterweight title in the Ulster Elite championships, went out after a split decision defeat at the hands of Paul Hyland – 30-27, 29-28, 28-29 – following three relentless rounds of action.
The Holy Trinity man seemed to have done more than enough to win with his quality blows, even though Gleann's Hyland had dug deep and forced him to work for every second of the contest.
"That's a joke decision, how could they come up with that," fumed O'Hara.
"I've spent the last year of my business degree at Jordanstown part-time so I could train with the Sports Institute, to make sure I was in the best shape to go the Commonwealth Games.
"I'm not sure what will happen now but I won't end my season like that – I'll go down to Dublin for the Irish championships and see how I go."
Gutsy Hyland will now face another Holy Trinity man in tomorrow night's decider at the Europa Hotel as Sean Duffy ground down Eamonn Magee jnr in the other last four clash.
Magee seemed to take the opening round with his smart footwork and sharp combinations, but gradually Duffy gained a foothold and he finished both the second and third round very strongly. Magee had to take count in the third when Duffy's head accidentally caught him on the mouth.
Lisburn's Kurt Walker looked every inch a class act on his debut at this level, booking his place in the bantamweight final with a third round stoppage of Daniel Fullerton of Sean Doran Keady.
Walker, 18, took his time to find his range but in the second he picked apart Fullerton's defence, forcing him to take a count. The third was one-way traffic and after another count, the referee wisely called it off.
Walker, of the Canal club, said: "I'm delighted to get the win. I know I can box a lot better and I'm now looking forward to the final."
Walker will face Gary McKenna of Old School in the final after he took a split decision over Anthony O'Rawe of Braid.
In arguably the contest of the night, Marc McLaughlin of the host club Dockers was handed a split decision victory over Gerard Matthews of St Paul's after they fought each other to a standstill in their lightweight semi-final.
There was little between the two southpaws as they blazed away from the opening bell to the last second. Both men were clearly badly tiring in the final minute but kept pumping out the leather until receiving a standing ovation at the bell.
Matthews looked exhausted but insisted: "I'll get a good rest and be ready for the final on Friday night."
Matthews will start as the underdog against Immaculata's Joe Fitzpatrick, who defeated Tyrone McCullagh of Holy Family on a unanimous decision.
Results: 49kg: Blaine Dobbins (St Joseph's) bt John Cassidy (Illies GG) 29-28, 30-25, 30-27.
52kg: Sean Higginson (SJB Belfast) bt Colin McKay (St Paul's) 29-28, 30-27, 30-26.
56kg: Gary McKenna (Old School) bt Anthony O'Rawe (Braid) 29-28, 29-28, 27-30; Kurt Walker (Canal) bt Daniel Fullerton (Sean Doran Keady) rsc3.
60kg: Joe Fitzpatrick (Immaculata) bt Tyrone McCullagh (Holy Family) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28; Marc McLaughlin (Dockers) bt Gerard Matthews (St Paul's) 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.
64kg: Sean Duffy (Holy Trinity) bt Eamonn Magee jnr (Spartans) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28; Paul Hyland (Gleann) bt Mark O'Hara (Holy Trinity) 30-27, 29-28, 28-29.
Finals start tomorrow night at 7.45pm.