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Third national title in a row keeps Olympic dream alive

O’Reilly puts controversial box-off loss behind him at National Stadium.

Michael O'Reilly looks to land a left-hand on Conor Wallace last night.
Michael O'Reilly looks to land a left-hand on Conor Wallace last night.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDALLIST Michael O’Reilly has kept his Olympic hopes alive after winning his third consecutive Irish title at the National Stadium.

Portlaoise middleweight O’Reilly was unlucky to miss out on a place at the Rio 2016 Games after a controversial box-off loss at the Worlds last October, but he managed to see off Newry’s Connor Wallace on a 3-0 unanimous decision to claim a hat-trick of Irish senior titles last night.

The 22-year-old European Games champion added to his haul as the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) staged the 2016 national tournament early in preparation for those Olympic qualifiers next year. The 2015 nationals took place last January.

Ireland have so far qualified four boxers for Rio 2016 – Michael Conlan (56kg), Paddy Barnes (49kg), Joe Ward (81kg) and Steven Donnelly (69kg) – meaning finalists at those weights were only fighting for national pride, while all four of those qualifiers did not participate in the 2016 tournament having already booked their Olympic places.

“I suppose there was a bit of pressure on me. I was very confident going in and I just came out on top,” said O’Reilly afterwards.

“I came back from the World Championships and took a week off, tapered off for a bit of a break. So I knew then coming back that I had to win the (Irish) senior championships to get a chance in the qualifiers,” he added.

A European Olympic qualifier takes place in Istanbul next April and O’Reilly is likely to be on the plane to Turkey, while Brendan Irvine, David Oliver Joyce, Dean Walsh and Dean Gardiner look set to join him after recording victories last night.

Wexford’s Walsh edged his old Mayo rival Ray Moylette in a cracking contest at light-welterweight to retain his 64kg title and match O’Reilly’s hat-trick, while Joyce came out the right side of a close call against defending lightweight champ Seán McComb of Belfast to take the 60kg crown.

Meanwhile, Irvine moved up from light-flyweight to flyweight to win his second national title inside the space of 11 months with a relatively comfortable win over fellow Belfast native TJ Waite.

Kilkenny heavyweight and former European middleweight silver medallist Darren O’Neill eased to 3-0 unanimous points win over Bernard O’Reilly, brother of Michael, while Bray-based Wexford welterweight Adam Nolan defeated Martin Stokes of Drogheda to retain his 69kg crown.

At light-heavyweight, John Paul Delaney defeated Navan’s Chris Blaney, and super-heavyweight Dean Gardiner of Clonmel successfully defended his 91+kg title against Thomas Carty of Glasnevin.

Results: National Elite Championships 2016 (National Stadium, Dublin) – Finals – 49kg Stephen McKenna (Old School) bt Regan Buckley (St Teresa’s) UD. 52kg T.J. Waite (Ormeau Road) lost to Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s Antrim) UD. 56kg Kurt Walker (Canal) bt Myles Casey (St Francis) UD. 75kg Michael O’Reilly (Portloaise) bt Conor Wallace (St Monica’s Newry) UD. 60kg David Oliver Joyce (St Michaels Athy) bt Seán McComb (Holy Trinity) SD. 64kg Dean Walsh (St Ibars/Josephs) bt Raymond Moylette (St Annes) UD.  91kg Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) bt Bernard O’Reilly (Portlaoise) UD. 69kg Adam Nolan (Bray) bt Martin Stokes (Holy Family Drogheda) UD.  81kg Christopher Blaney (Navan) bt John Paul Delaney (Emerald Antrim) UD. 91+kg Dean Gardiner (Clonmel) V Thomas Carty (Glasnevin) UD.

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Ciarán Gallagher

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