BOXING: Adam Nolan still daring to dream of making Rio

Adam Nolan is hoping to earn the chance to challenge recently-qualified Steven Donnelly for a place at next year’s Olympics.
BOXING: Adam Nolan still daring to dream of making Rio

Wexford welterweight Nolan begins the defence of his national elite senior title at the National Stadium tonight after receiving a bye to the semi-finals, in which he meets Michael Bustard of Antrim.

The Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) are hosting the 2016 championships early in the build-up to next year’s Olympic qualifiers. Ballymena’s Donnelly was this week informed that he has reached qualification criteria for the Olympics through the World Series of Boxing (WSB), though that will not be formally confirmed until next week.

The highly-convoluted qualification system for the Rio 2016 Games means that Donnelly, who performed well in WSB, only qualified after selection calls elsewhere.

However, whoever emerges as champion from the national senior championships may yet have a shot at Olympic qualification through one of the international tournaments, meaning there could yet be a box-off at certain weight categories.

Donnelly and Nolan’s welterweight (69kg) division is one of those and Nolan is hoping he can get a shot at reaching a second Olympic Games if he retains his Irish senior title this month.

“I don’t know what the story is [with Donnelly] and I’ve been speaking to no-one, because there’s no point in me talking about it, if I don’t go out and do the job in the seniors, because then I have no chance,” said London 2012 Olympian Nolan.

“If I retain my senior [Irish] title, I’ll see where I go from there and if I can go to the [Olympic] qualifiers next year. Hopefully, I will get the chance to go, but, as of now, I haven’t asked those questions and I don’t intend to ask them until Friday week.

“That’s all I’d hope for. On merit, if I do retain my title, I would like to at least get the chance to qualify,” said Nolan.

Meanwhile, Donnelly was keen to enter the national championships, but his WSB participation and a hand injury means he is unable to.

“I went through the WSB with one hand, more or less, but I got away with it,” said Donnelly. “I wasn’t ready for the Irish seniors, I’m only back training properly and it was just too soon for me.”

Tonight, Nolan takes on Bustard, who defeated Fergal Redmond of Arklow on a third-round stoppage in his opener two weeks ago after the latter picked up a nasty cut.

The pair have never met in a competitive fight and Bray-based Garda Nolan is keen to get back in the ring after a two-week wait since weighing in for the tournament.

“The last couple of weeks have dragged now, so just looking forward to getting in now and hopefully performing,” said the 28-year-old, who has had a busy year of international experience, which he hopes will stand to him.

“It’s been kind of full-on,” said Nolan. “I’ve fought world-class opponents, but you still have to go in here and perform to your best, because the hardest job is getting out of Ireland.”

A battle of brothers at 60kg will see the Joyces, David Oliver and Hugh go head to head. David Oliver is competing in the national championships as well as the new APB professional-boxing tournament in order to open up more than one avenue to Rio.

The elder Joyce, who has been training under national coach Eddie Bolger, is fancied to overcome his younger, less-experienced brother and he won’t let sentimentality get in the way.

“I’ve got two routes to Rio and a few chances so hopefully this time it works out for me,” said David Oliver. “I’ve been going flat out since 2007, so hopefully I get over the line.”

There are three other reigning Irish champions in action tonight, with Kurt Walker (56kg), Dean Walsh (64kg) and Darren O’Neill (91kg) all defending their titles.

However, super-heavyweight champ Dean Gardiner has received a walkover.

Belfast bantamweight Walker takes on Cork’s Colin O’Donovan of Togher Boxing Club, Wexford light-welter Walsh clashes with James Cleary of Galway’s Olympic club, while Kilkenny heavyweight O’Neill meets Belfast’s Stephen McMonagle.

Tomorrow night, world middleweight medallist Michael O’Reilly is scheduled to fight, along with Irish title holders Seán McComb and Myles Casey.

2016 National Elite Championships (National Stadium) Tonight (7.30pm) – Quarter-final, 75kg:

Fearghus Quinn (Camlough) v John Joyce (St Michaels Athy). Semi-finals - 49kg: Regan Buckley (St Teresa’s) v Darryl Moran (Illies GG). 52kg: TJ Waite (Ormeau Road) v Jason McKay (St Pauls Antrim). 56kg: Kurt Walker (Canal) v Colin O’Donovan (Togher). 60kg: David Oliver Joyce (St Michaels Athy) v Hugh Joyce (St Michael’s Athy). 64kg: Dean Walsh (St Joseph’s/Ibars) v James Cleary (Olympic). 69kg: Adam Nolan (Bray) v Michael Bustard (Monkstown Antrim). 81kg: Christopher Blaney (Navan) v Sean McGlinchey (Oakleaf). 91kg Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) v Stephen McMonagle (Holy Trinity). 91+kg Dean Gardiner (Clonmel) bt Damien Sullivan (Emerald Antrim) WO.

Tomorrow (Sat, 7.30pm) – Semi-finals - 52kg:

Brendan Irvine (St Pauls Antrim) v William Donohue (St Michaels Athy). 56kg: Jason Kirwan (Ballagh) v Myley Casey (St Francis). 60kg: George Bates (St Marys Dublin) v Seán McComb (Holy Trinity). 64kg Wayne Kelly (Athlone) v Ray Moylette (St Annes). 69kg: Caoimhín Hynes (Holy Trinity) v Martin Stokes (Holy Family Drogheda). 75kg Michael O’Reilly (Portlaoise) v TBC. 75kg: Conor Wallace (St Monicas Newry) v Eddie Byrne (Na Fianna). 81kg: John Paul Delaney (Emerald A) v Seán Allen (Arklow). 91kg: Kiril Afanasev (Smithfield) v Bernie O’Reilly (Portlaoise). 91+kg: Thomas Carty (Glasnevin) v Constantin Popivicu (Johnstown).

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