The defending welter and heavyweight champions beat Ulster’s Michael Bustard, who took a count in the third, and Stephen McMonagle to within one win apiece of winning fifth and sixth titles.
“It’s always good the get the first one out of the way, said the Bray BC southpaw, who received a bye into the last-four. “I have another big test again next weekend. Finals, you know nothing comes easy.
“You’re always apprehensive going into your first fight, nothing comes handy at this level. Look at all the split decisions tonight!” O’Neill, who is aiming for his sixth belt at two different weights, TKO’d McMonagle, who took two counts, in the first.
Meantime, David Oliver Joyce, a three-time EU champion, progressed without having to dodge a punch after his brother Hughie and St Michael’s Athy team-mate didn’t weigh-in on Friday morning because of a chest infection.
Joyce, Ireland’s only AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) fighter at the Championships, will meet either George Bates or defending lightweight champion Sean McComb in next Friday’s 60kg final.
Bantam and light-welter belt holders Kurt Walker and Dean Walsh also had their hands raised in victory at the South Circular Road venue on Friday, the Antrim and Wexford pair beating Cork’s Colin O’Donovan and Galway’s James Cleary.
Cleary, however, asked plenty of questions of the European Elite bronze medallist in a pulsating 64kg showdown, with Walsh earning the fourth straight split decision of the session.
Nolan, meantime, complimented Steven Donnelly on securing an Olympic places in the 69kg class through the World Series of Boxing (WSB) this week. Donnelly, Paddy Barnes, World Elite Michael Conlan and Joe Ward will represent Ireland at welter, light-fly, bantam and light-heavy at Rio 2016.
All four boxers, along with international boxers, were confirmed to the International Boxing Association (AIBA) yesterday, the deadline for the first batch for the 31st Olympiad. AIBA said boxers confirmed cannot be replaced by other boxers in their weights by National Federations.
Meanwhile, Michael O’Reilly, the highest ranked AIBA world ranked boxer at No.3 in action at the Elites, opens his 75kg title defence tonight. The Portlaoise BC middleweight claimed European Games gold and World Elite bronze last year, but lost out controversially to Egypt’s Hosam Abdin in a box-off for Rio 2016.
He faces St Michael’s Athy BC prospect John Joyce, a former European Schoolboy, Junior and Youth medallist. Joyce shaded Fearghus Quinn on a split decision on his Elite debut last evening.
“I’m going for my third senior title,” said the 22-year-old O’Reilly. “It’s all about getting over the final furlong now. That’s my focus.”
Tonight’s last-four duels will pave the way for next Friday’s finals. Dean Gardiner received a walkover into into the super-heavy decider after Damien Sullivan withdrew injured from their 91kg + clash. Reagan Buckley and TJ Waite, on an emotional evening following a sad death in his family, and Chris Blaney also posted wins last night. The second session of semi-finals will be resolved tonight.
J Joyce (St Michaels Athy) beat F Quinn (Camlough) 2-1 Semi-finals - 49kg: Regan Buckley (St Teresas) beat D Moran (Illies GG) 2-1, 52kg: TJ Waite (Ormeau Road) beat J McKay (St Pauls Antrim) 2-1, 56kg: K Walker (Canal) beat C O’Donovan (Togher) 3-0, 60kg: D Joyce (St Michaels Athy) W/O, 64kg: D Walsh (St Josephs/Ibars) beat J Cleary (Olympic) 2-1, 69kg: A Nolan (Bray) beat M Bustard (Monkstown Antrim) 3-0; 81kg: C Blaney (Navan) beat S McGlinchey (Oakleaf) 2-1; 91kg: D O’Neill (Paulstown) beat S McMonagle (Holy Trinity) TKO1 91+kg: D Gardiner (Clonmel) W/O