Portlaoise’s Michael O’Reilly and Ballinrobe’s Gary Sweeney (All Stars ABC) both qualified for today’s European Youth Championships Finals when Friday’s sessions ended at the Citywest Convention Centre in Saggart on Friday night.
Three other Irish fighters lost their semi-final bouts but will have the consolation of a bronze medal – Joe Fitzpatrick,Jack Morrissey and Stephen Broadhurst.
For Michael O’Reilly, reaching the final is a great accomplishment for one who was not even chosen to represent his country in these championships. Only after the intervention of the High Court late last week was O’Reilly added to the Irish team.
Despite the ‘disciplinary’ disagreement with the IABA which led to his original exclusion – and the High Court case – the overwhelming majority of boxing fans always saw O’Reilly as a possible medal winner for his country in Dublin and so it has proved.
Eighteen years old ,O’Reilly was never in trouble against Viktar Murashkin the champion of Belarus in their welterweight semi-final, winning all three rounds 8-6 5-2 7-4 for a convincing 20-12 overall tally. In today’s final he meets Russian titleholder, Igor Kharitonov (Russia) who beat Ihsan Erdogan (Turkey) 13-8 in the other 69kg semi-final.
For Mayo’s Gary Sweeney ,who boxes out of the All Stars BC it was a much tougher battle – indeed he was 5-4 behind going into the final round against Nikita Versockis of Latvia but in that last round, a great all round effort for the Ballinrobe youth was enough to sway the judges and he ran out a deserving winner at 10-8. In Saturday afternoon’s final he, like O’Reilly, faces a Russian opponent – Vladimir Korunov (Russia) who overcame the challenge of Bryan Coupé, the French champion from Roubaix
Immaculata flyweight Joe Fitzpatrick was also in the ring on Friday night , but lost out to Vasily Vetkin of Russia by a two point margin.Fitzpatrick has greatly matured during these championships and is one to watch for the future.
Bear in mind he is, at 16, the young member of the Irish team at Citywest and to get a bronze medal in his first championships at this level is a great achievement.
In Friday’s opening session, Stephen Broadhurst and Jack Morrissey also had to settle for bronze.
Dundalk southpaw Broadhurst was defeated by Rauf Rashimov of Azerbaijan in the middleweight class. whilst Wexford heavyweight Morrissey was retired in the second round by his coaches, against another Russian, Ivan Veryasov, one of the most talented fighters seen at Citywest this week.
All in all a good week for the Irish team and a great achievement to get five medals in such an important championships.
Go along to the Citywest today and support O’Reilly and Sweeney in their finals, which commence at 2.30 pm. Ten great bouts on the card. Great value for money but if you live too far away from Dublin then watch the finals here from 2.30pm