By Chris McNulty
MAKE no mistake about it: this was a massive win and a significant milestone in Jason Quigley’s story.
The Finn Valley ABC middleweight finally got one over on his nemesis, Darren O’Neill, on Saturday at the National Stadium in Dublin to advance into the semi-finals of the National Elite Senior Championships.
A gold medal winner at the European under 23 championships in Russia in December, Quigley’s star has been rising for some time now – but it took perhaps its most important step yet at the South Circular Road venue on Saturday.
At the end of three gruelling rounds, the boxers couldn’t be separated as they stood at 13 apiece in the centre of the ring. It was, however, Quigley who won the countback. The Donegal ace had his hand hoisted, taking a 49-38 win on accepted scores.
O’Neill, the captain of the star-studded Irish boxing team at the 2012 Olympics in London has had the Indian sign over Quigley, since the Ballybofey man made the step up to the senior ranks.
In his first year at this level, in 2010, Quigley lost 6-1 in the middleweight final to O’Neill. Twelve months later, they were in opposing corners again on finals night – but it was the experience of O’Neill that told as he scored a 7-4 win to hold onto his crown.
Quigley has been training with the bit between his teeth, however, and a recent training camp in Wales seems to have paid dividends for the young Finn Valley man.
He has made no secret of the fact that it was the Kilkenny southpaw O’Neill on whom his crosshairs were fixed, stating in a recent interview: “I’m coming to get Darren O’Neill.”
And on Saturday night he did just that. Quigley won the first two rounds and led 9-7 going into the final three minutes, but it was O’Neill who won the final round, 6-4.
Of course, Quigley won’t be foolish enough to think that he’s already taken the ultimate step as Conrad Cummings, Conor Coyle and Roy Sheahan still stand in the middleweight class, but there can be no doubt that the Beeches resident put some demons to bed with this win.
Quigley had a tough 24 hours having had to fight in a preliminary round bout on Friday night. The Finn Valley man was taken the three rounds by Neil Blaney from Navan, but Quigley had little difficulty and he scored a 21-7 win to go into his showdown with O’Neill, where he finally annexed the ghosts of fights past.
Willie McLaughlin, the Illies Golden Gloves welterweight, is back in semi-final territory, too, after the Buncrana ace – who is taking a couple of weeks of a break from his exploits in the World Series of Boxing to compete in the senior championships – comfortably came through his quarter-final.
McLaughlin recorded an inside-the-distance win over debut man Phil Moloney, the St Francis fighter who retired from the contest in the second round.
The semi-finals begin on Friday at 7pm in the National Stadium.