The International Boxing Association (IABA) this week confirmed that Paddy Barnes (49kg) Michael Conlan (56kg), Steven Donnelly (69kg), and Joe Ward (81kg) have received Olympic quota places for Rio, and all four are absent from the domestic competition as a result.
That means that four of tonight’s finals will only have national pride on the line, although London 2012 Olympian Adam Nolan - who meets Drogheda’s Martin Stokes in the 69kg welterweight final - maintains that he wants to be sent to next year’s Olympic qualifiers should he retain his Irish title tonight. While that looks an increasingly implausible scenario, six weight classes – fly (52kg), light (60kg), light-welter (64kg), middle (75kg), heavy (91kg) and super-heavyweight (91+kg) - will have avenues open to the first European Olympic qualifier that takes place in Istanbul next April.
The 64kg rematch clash between defending champion Dean Walsh and Ray Moylette is arguably the most anticipated bout, and the 60kg lightweight decider between Belfast’s Seán McComb and Athy’s David Oliver Joyce looks likely to be another tasty treat on the menu.
It is another rematch, following Joyce’s 2014 final win, while McComb regained the title last January in the 2015 tournament.
Elsewhere, the flyweight (52kg) decider between Belfast friends and foes Brendan Irvine and TJ Waite should be an intriguing affair. Light-flyweight champion Irvine has moved up in weight in order to chase an Olympic place since Barnes has the 49kg slot booked, while Waite is courageously competing despite a recent family bereavement having won his semi-final last Friday on the same day that his mother passed away.
At middleweight, European champion and world medallist Michael O’Reilly from Portlaoise attempts to revive his Olympic prospects against Newry’s Connor Wallace.
O’Reilly’s brother, Bernie, will be the underdog against heavyweight champion Darren O’Neill, while at super-heavyweight Clonmel’s Dean Gardiner defends his title against Thomas Carty of Glasnevin.
At the ‘non-Olympic’ weights, Wexford’s Nolan meets Stokes at 69kg, Limerick’s flyweight champion Myles Casey moves up in weight to challenge bantamweight champion Kurt Walker of Belfast, Stephen McKenna and Regan Buckley clash at 49kg, while Christopher Blaney of Navan) and Belfast’s John Paul Delaney meet at 81kg.
Stephen McKenna (Old School) V Regan Buckley (St Teresa’s). 52kg T.J. Waite (Ormeau Road) V Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s Antrim). 56kg Kurt Walker (Canal) V Myles Casey (St Francis). 75kg Michael O’Reilly (Portloaise) V Conor Wallace (St Monica’s Newry). 60kg David Oliver Joyce (St Michaels Athy) V Seán McComb (Holy Trinity). 64kg Dean Walsh (St Ibars/Josephs) V Raymond Moylette (St Annes). 91kg Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) V Bernard O’Reilly (Portlaoise). 69kg Adam Nolan (Bray) V Martin Stokes (Holy Family Drogheda) 81kg Christopher Blaney (Navan) V John Paul Delaney (Emerald Antrim). 91+kg Dean Gardiner (Clonmel) V Thomas Carty (Glasnevin).