Waterford boxers wait to find out opponents for National Elite Championships

The National Elite boxing Championships return this week with plenty of Waterford talent flying the Déise flag in Dublin.

As per the IABA, “The 2023 National Elite Championships are the de facto beginning of selection for the Paris 2024 Olympics. All boxers wishing to be considered for the selection pool for any of the Olympic Games qualifiers must enter these Elite Championships”.

On the women’s side of the competition, two Waterford boxers will be hoping to come away with medals draped around their necks, but it will not be an easy route for either of them. While she may not be a Waterford native, Christina Desmond does call Dungarvan home as the Garda is based in the town for work. She trains in Dungarvan boxing club while still calling Cork home. Her task will not be an easy one in the 66kg weight class.

Her potential opponents include no less than two world champions; Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke. Six competitors have been entered in that weight class which should make for a very interesting bracket.

Lower down in the weight classes is Tramore’s Zara Breslin. She entered the 60kg category along with two others. If Desmond’s route to a medal is mired with hurdles, the same can be said for Breslin who finds herself in the same grouping as European, World and Olympic Champion Kellie Harrington.

The 22-year-old Breslin won a National U22 title at 57kg in 2022. She would follow that up by appearing at the European U22 Championship where she fought her way to the quarter-finals in Croatia. Her experience in the last 12 months will serve her in good stead, but the challenge she faces in this Championship can not be underestimated.

In the men’s draw, we have three Waterford boxers hoping to claim titles. One of those three will be hoping to make it back-to-back titles when he steps between the ropes for his run at the light heavyweight title. Kelyn Cassidy shocked the Irish boxing community last year when he knocked out Tommy Hyde in the first round of the title decider. Since then, Cassidy has gone on to represent Ireland at the World Championships where he was the only boxer from Team Ireland to register a win.

The Savior’s Crystals’ boxer has had a tough run in 2022 dealing with two hand injuries that kept him away from the ring for most of the year. He had his first proper taste of competitive boxing at the Algarve Cup prior to Christmas where he won the gold medal in his weight class as well as earning the male boxer of the tournament award.

If he can produce the same form as he did 12 months ago he will have a strong chance of retaining his title and remaining on course for selection for the 2024 games in Paris. His potential opponents are all about the same age-give or take a year-and one of those other three boxers is Team Ireland member Gabriel Dossen.

Moving down the weight classes to 63.5kg we find James “Seamie” McDonagh who hopes to pull off a shock as the youngest entrant in his weight class. The St. Paul’s man won the U22 National Championships in February. He also traveled to Croatia for the European U22 Championships where he represented Ireland. He had a very close contest with his Turkish opponent, who was at the time, the world’s elite silver medalist.

Sean Purcell is the other Savior’s Crystals’ member to head to the capital this week. The Kilkenny native is tied as the oldest competitor in his division, in what is comfortably the biggest bracket of the tournament. 10 boxers are entered into the 57kg weight class where, again, everyone will be hoping to book themselves a place on the plane to Paris.

Amongst the potential fights that Purcell could face is a rematch with Adam Hession. The Monivea man won the 57kg title last year, beating Purcell in the final, and he will be hoping to retain the title here. Hession has long been tipped as one of the hottest prospects in Irish boxing and will be well-tipped to have his hand raised in a deciding bout this week.

The draws will be made on Tuesday (January 10th) in the National Stadium with bouts set to begin on Thursday.

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