O’Neill landed a unanimous decision to defeat Romania’s Ionut Jitaru in boxing’s opening morning session, recovering after a sluggish second round performance to dominate the final round of what turned into a bit of a bruiser.
“I went out and boxed well in the first round, I suppose I struggled a bit in the second round, which is a bit of a habit I get into” explained O’Neill, brimming after the victory.
My 1st fight over. Unanimous win v Romania. Few days rest now & cheer on our team. Great win by Myles Casey earlier #Baku2015#EuropeanGames— Darren O'Neill OLY (@DarrenONeillOLY) June 16, 2015
“He was putting pressure on me in the second” explained O’Neill who was caught in the opening minute of the second round. “I said to myself, get this back to a boxing match, which is what I did in the final round.”
O’Neill got back to basics having made the move up to heavy weight and in the end was a comfortable 3–0 unanimous winner over the Romanian. O’Neill faces Latvian Raitis Sinkevics in the round of 16 on Sunday.
Two of the three Irish boxers in the day’s action progressed, with O’Neill confident the Irish can make their mark on the new European games, which have captured the boxing community interest in Azerbaijan.
“We’re a young team with the exception of myself and Adam Nolan” joked O’Neill. “It’s a young team with Michael Conlon and Paddy Barnes having qualified already, so that’s allowed the two lighter boys come here.”
Myles Casey made history in the early morning, convincingly winning his fly weight bout with Belarussian Ivan Fihurenka, the first ever bout to take place at a European games.
Casey produced an aggressive opening, quickly on his toes, a pace that Fihurenka found hard to handle in the opening seconds, setting the tone for a unanimous 3 -0 win and a meeting with the host country’s Elvin Mamishzada.
Kurt Walker exited the first European games after defeat to plucky Russian Bakhtovar Nazirov on a split decision after Walker produced a strong final round.
Longford shooter Derek Burnett, placed in 12th position after the first day of qualification for the men’s trap. Burnett shot a maximum 25 mark in rounds one and two, just off the max in round three hitting 23.
He will take on qualification day two at 6am Irish time, unless disaster strikes, he should make his way to the semi-final which takes place four hours later, immediately followed by the final.
Archer Darren Wallace placed 52nd in yesterday morning’s ranking round. Wallace will face Italian David Pasqualucci in the first round proper on Saturday. Pasqualucci took 13th position in yesterday’s ranking round.
Sinead Cuthbert Cunningham finished in 33rd place in the women’s equivalent and will face Natalia Erdynieva having place eighth in yesterday’s qualifying round, the last 32 which is straight knock out gets underway on Friday morning.
Meanwhile Jennifer Egan was left heartbroken as she missed out on a European games medal by just a tenth of a second in Baku.
Less than a second separated the Kildare woman from silver medallist Britain’s Lani Belcher with Csay Renata of Hungary taking bronze. Marian Litvinchuk of Belarus was the convincing winner outright by some 17 seconds.
“It’s heartbreaking to be so close to the medal” explained Egan. “I know it was a great performance but missing out on a medal which I aimed for and trained hard for.”
Egan was squeezed out of a break with just a lap to go, but admitted a final surge on the home straight cost her a medal. “I made a move but just got caught on the wave that Belcher and Renata created.”