Both boxers have yet to get their respective campaigns under way with Sutherland set to meet Dundalk man, Sean Shevlin (Dealgan) in tonight’s semi-finals and O’Neill facing an opener against Edward Healy (Portlaoise) who defeated Eamon O’Kane (Immaculata) by a single point in a thrilling quarter final last night.
To say Sutherland was disappointed with his performance at the world championships in Chicago would be an understatement and he admitted yesterday he should have qualified for the Olympic Games there.
“They were bad world championships but there were reasons and I am not going to dwell on them now,” he said. “I had hoped to qualify for the Olympics and I should have and that was a huge disappointment.
“I mean I could have relaxed at Christmas — gone on a holiday. I have not had a holiday in over a year. Over the past year I have been the most active boxer on the High Performance squad.
“But I was amazed that one newspaper had written me off and suggested that it was time for some new blood,” Sutherland said. “It would appear that some people are doubting my ability.
“My main concern is the national championships. I am not thinking about Chicago. I am not thinking about the Olympic qualifiers. I just want to go out and make a statement.
“There is nothing personal between me and Darren O’Neill although other people have personalised it. To me Darren is just another opponent who I have to beat and I am very confident that I can do that.
“The national championships are very important to me because this is probably the last time I will compete in them and I want to leave with a hat-trick of titles.
“To prepare for them I went back to my roots — the St Saviours club with Jimmy Halpin and the McCormack brothers — working on what I am good at and that is instinctive boxing because I think I may have become too technical.
“I like to get in there — up close where I throw big shots and hurt my opponent. That’s what works for me. If I was to box technically I would never beat Matvey Korobov, for instance, but let me get in there and hit him with some big shots and I would.”
Edward Healy claimed his place in the semi-finals with an 8-7 victory over last year’s defeated finalist, Eamon O’Kane, at the end of a final round that had the fans on their feet.
It was low scoring all the way with just one point registered in the first round and that was for Healy who won the second round 2-1 and drew the 2-2.
O’Kane, lost in the third round to Darren Sutherland last year before going on to claim a gold medal at the Commonwealth Championships, staged a big comeback in the fourth round and led 7-6 before Healy, a former national under-21 champion, battled his way back to claim victory.
Healy, now 27, lost an intermediate final before losing to Darren Sutherland in the final of the senior championships two years ago and now he relishes a shot at Darren O’Neill.
“I boxed him before in Kilkenny when he was a light heavyweight and I was a middleweight,” he said. “And I sparred him two weeks ago in Kilkenny so I know him pretty well.
“I had to dig deep out there tonight and I know I will have to dig deeper tomorrow night.”
Con Sheehan (Clonmel) produced the shock of the night when he came back from two standing counts in the first round to win the second 2-1 and the third 5-0 before claiming a 14-7 victory over John Sweeney (Dungloe).
This was the best contest of the championships so far with Sheehan, just 19 and the reigning U-21 champion, delivering accurate punches with both hands in response to Sweeney’s two-fisted onslaughts.
He will meet William Byrne (Knockgoshel) in an all-Munster semi-final tonight. Byrne had too much in his armoury from Philip Kearns (Golden Gloves) in his quarter final
Relatives of two of Ireland’s boxing legends touched gloves at light welterweight last night when Philip Sutcliffe (Crumlin) and Jamie Dowling (Paulstown) met in a contest that had developed into a thriller until Dowling sustained a cut eye in the fourth round when he had fought back to draw level at 15 points apiece and the verdict went to Sutcliffe.
Jamie Dowling is a nephew of twice European bronze medallist and Olympian, Mick Dowling, while Sutcliffe’s father, also Philip, won European bronze medals in 1977 and 1979 when he lost to the champion, in time.
John Joe Joyce (St Michael’s, Athy) who moved up to light welter last year was at his brilliant best when stopping David Barrett (Rylane) on the 20-point rule in the third round.