Revitalised Egan hunting the perfect 10

TWO years ago Kenneth Egan was at a crossroads in his boxing career after a disappointing performance at the world championships in Chicago while qualification for the Olympics still eluded him.

Two years on, with his Olympic silver medal safely stashed away, he can’t hide his excitement. A record-breaking 10th successive national senior title is a certainty unless the Belfast teenager, Tommy McCarthy, can pull something sensational out of the hat in tonight’s national senior finals at the National Stadium.

“I want to win this one,” Egan insisted. “Last year was a disaster for me with all that happened after the Olympics but I’m flying this year. Mentally and physically I am flying and I am confident in my ability. I am looking forward to this final. I just can’t wait for it.”

Last year Egan beat Tommy McCarthy 9-5 to win his ninth national senior title. The Belfast teenager had won a bronze medal at the world youths championships in Mexico but found the national senior title beyond his reach.

McCarthy, 19, believes that he has come on by leaps and bounds since January 2009. Coming off an injury, he did not set the place on fire but he won both of his contests to get to the final and believes he is ready for Egan.

“Looking at the tape of last year’s final I can see I was only a child in against a man in my first senior final,” he said.

“Now I’m a year older and stronger and I’m growing all the time. I know if I box to my full potential I can win.”

Olympic bronze medallist, Paddy Barnes (Holy Family), will also feature on tonight’s card when he defends his light flyweight title against former champion, Jimmy Moore (St Francis, Limerick). The Limerick man whose father died recently, insists this will be his last appearance in the championships.

Moore had returned from a spell in Australia when he beat Barnes to add the senior title a few years ago but the diminutive Belfast man subsequently stripped him of the title in a close final and went on to gain Olympic qualification in Chicago and then the bronze medal in Beijing.

There will be a huge interest in tonight’s welterweight final in which Willie McLaughlin (Illies GG) defends the title against the former light welterweight champion and Olympian, John Joe Joyce (St Michael’s, Athy).

The European junior champion, Jason Quigley (Finn Valley), took a big scalp when he defeated the European senior bronze medallist, Eamon O’Kane, last weekend for the right to challenge Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) for the middleweight title tonight but the former Kilkenny hurler – a reigning EU champion – should prove too experienced for the Donegal teenager.

Connie Sheehan from Clonmel is the most exciting heavyweight to emerge on the Irish scene for many years. He won his first senior title at 18 and tonight defends it for the second time in a repeat of last year’s final in which he defeated five-time champion, Alan Reynolds, from Sligo.

The 6’4” WIT student, reigning European Union champion, is destined for great things although his trainer, Martin Fennessy, insists that he will not be too perturbed if he does not get to the London Olympics in 2012.

“He will be only 22 years of age then,” the Clonmel coach said. “I think 2016 would be more realistic but you never know. He has the quickest hands I have ever seen on a heavyweight and he is super fit. He is a dream to work with.”

When it was decided to hold the women’s championships alongside the men, everyone was hoping to see Katie Taylor win her first national senior title but it came as no surprise when she got a walkover. She will still feature on tonight’s programme, however, as the IABA have imported Ukrainian opponents for both herself and Drimnagh middleweight, Sinead Kavanagh.

Taylor’s opponent, Julia Tsyplakova, reached the finals of last year’s European championships as a featherweight but has since moved up a division.

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