Walsh expects O’Neill to be in mix for Milan despite injury blow

DARREN O’NEILL will miss the Open Tournament which will be held at the National Stadium over the coming two weekends to help select the Irish boxing team for the world championships in Milan in September.

The Paulstown southpaw is a victim of his own progress, according to Irish head coach, Billy Walsh, who is convinced O’Neill will be in the mix when the team is being selected.

“Darren has made amazing progress over the past year,” he said. “And as a result of the way he is punching he has been having trouble with his hands.

“He needs a bit of time to get back into it again. I would be very surprised if he is not in the mix when it comes to selecting the team for Milan.”

Willie McLaughlin will also be absent as he has been nursing a rib injury since the EU championships as well and, while he tried it out during the week, he will not be recovered in time to take his place. And Ryan Lindberg from Belfast is also out through injury.

One man who can’t wait to get back into the ring is Mullingar light welterweight, John Joe Joyce (St. Michael’s, Athy) but he knows that it is going to take a really big performance if he is to reclaim the limelight and to top spot from Philip Sutcliffe (Crumlin).

He had beaten Sutcliffe in last year’s senior championships but the Dubliner caught him with a couple of big bombs.

“I am looking forward to a rematch,” Joyce insisted. “And it has come around much quicker than I expected.”

His cousin, David Oliver Joyce, won another gold medal at the EU championships and this time around he won’t have Carl Frampton to contend with as Frampton has turned pro since they touched gloves in the senior finals.

Eric Donovan (St Michael’s, Athy) has been brilliant since reclaiming his national senior title and he goes into another tournament against former champion, Ross Hickey (Grangecon), and world youths champion, Ray Moylette (St Mary’s, Westport).

The spotlight is bound to be on Olympic silver medallist, Kenneth Egan (Neilstown) who has Hughie Joyce (St Michael’s Athy), Darren Cruise (Crumlin), Mark Carlyle (Crumlin), Tom Roohan (St Josephs) and Debis Higan (Grangecon), in the light heavyweight division.

“Kenny has six lads in his weight and it is an open draw and that makes it exciting,” Billy Walsh said. “He is heading in the right direction at the moment. He is improving all the time.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Hyland may not be looking beyond his July 25 fight at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght where he will meet Hevinson Herrera from Columbia for the Vacant IBF International Featherweight Title, but a win will put him in line for a possible world title fight with Cristobal Cruz from Mexico.

His handlers would not be rushing into that particular fight but Hyland, himself, feels he is ready.

Philadelphia-based Worldwide International, who have been working with the Hyland brothers and their management, Golden Cobra, in the USA are also based in the same town as Cruz promoters Banner Promotions and they could be making that call.

It all depends on how Hyland comes out of the July 25 fight.

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