A mixture of blood, sweat and possibly even some tears finally resulted in DCU Amateur Boxing Club becoming All-Ireland champions as well as taking home five All-Ireland titles at the recent Intervarsity National Championships.
After almost two months of gruelling training, relentless sparring and strict dieting, DCU’s boxers put on a masterclass at the National Boxing Stadium to clinch the title.
The victory came despite an unfortunate start to the year, as the boxing club lost two of its key competitors – Robert Egan due to a concussion and Conor Duffy as a result of a back injury.
Nevertheless, the tide dramatically shifted with the unprecedented results for DCU at the National Intervarsities. With 13 DCU boxers in the tournament, five emerged victorious as All-Ireland Champions, three obtained silver medals and the team of eight finalists, captained by Sean Cuddy, took the prestigious title of Intervarsity Team Champions by a wide points margin.
It was a long path to glory for DCU, having begun in the preliminary qualifiers which were held in St. Saviours Olympic Boxing Academy, a regular training ground for DCU boxers. First up was Aidan Gahan, who comfortably won by unanimous decision in his amateur debut in the 71kg junior novice category.
Next, Sam Rice showcased his boxing prowess against a formidable opponent to secure a place in the 64kg intermediate semi-final via unanimous decision, landing a multitude of thudding power shots throughout the contest. In an unfortunate early match-up, Faolan Rahill and Ciaran Ferry, both DCU boxers, were fixed together in the 75kg intermediate preliminaries with Rahill just edging the bout by unanimous decision.
Continuing from their success in the recent Trinity and Lucan boxing tournaments, Stephen Murray at 64kg, Charlie Norton at 75kg, and Danny McGowan at 60kg won each of their bouts by unanimous decision, securing their places in the next stage of their respective junior novice weight categories.
In the semi-finals, Michael Fahey bowed out of the tournament despite an excellent performance, losing a close decision to the eventual finalist of the 64kg intermediate category.
Once again, Rice displayed his fitness and proficiency in short range boxing to win by technical knockout in the third round and become a 64kg intermediate finalist.
Rahill, utilising his superior reach and precise footwork, bewildered his shorter opponent to cruise into the 75kg intermediate finals via a unanimous decision victory.
Gahan used his wide reach effectively to pick off his competitor at long range, thus securing his place in the 71kg junior novice finals by unanimous decision.
Now it was onto the finals for DCU, to be held at the National Boxing Stadium. Before the action even got underway, John Quigley, Ceire Smith and Clare Grace all received walk-overs to become champions by default.
The remaining eight finalists were Terry Keegan, Norton, Cuddy, Rice, Rahill, Murray, McGowan and Gahan.
McGowan took the 60kg junior novice gold medal, blitzing his opponent with combinations throughout the bout to win by unanimous decision.
Norton left everything in the ring but missed out by a small margin, losing by split decision to become the 75kg junior novice runner-up.
Murray became the 64kg junior novice champion courtesy of a stiff left jab and strong follow-up combinations.
Gahan performed with impressive composure but unfortunately lost by unanimous decision to a strong opponent to claim the junior novice 71kg runner-up place.
Keegan, founder and secretary of DCU Boxing Club, was faced with a tense repeat of last year’s 64kg novice final in which he had lost a tough fight to the eventual champion, Fionnbar Thompson of University of Limerick. This year, however, all of Keegan’s sacrifices and hard work leading up to the contest came to fruition as his will to win was just too much for the defending champion to handle. Consequently, the title of 64kg senior novice champion was awarded to the DCU man via a dramatic split decision, much to the delight of the fans that had turned out to watch his fight.
In the 64kg intermediate finals, Rice systematically broke down his opponent in brutal fashion to become champion, winning by knockout in the third round thanks to a crippling overhand right. This victory was made all the more joyous for Rice coming off the back of a year in which he found himself frustratingly inactive due to injury and a lack of momentum which threatened his boxing career.
Rahill showed tremendous concentration and long range boxing skills, repeatedly picking off his opponent. However, he didn’t do enough to beat him, losing by split decision.
Team captain Cuddy had to draw upon all his courage and desire in a particularly gruelling final against the very sturdy Jack Higgins of NUI Galway. Cuddy was awarded a well-earned split decision victory to become the 67kg senior novice champion.
Overall, the event was a fantastic opportunity to showcase the talented boxers of DCU Boxing Club who, after nearly two months of intense preparation under the tutelage of DCU’s head coach Derek Ahern, proved themselves to be some of the best university boxing has to offer.
Picture credit: Aidan Broletti