BY CHRIS MCNULTY
NINE-times Irish champion Michael Gallagher ensured that a rousing tournament at the Finn Valley Centre ended with a bang on Saturday night.
In a belting light-heavyweight contest, Gallagher had the edge on the rugged Tom McDonagh from Olympic BC. McDonagh should be commended that he was still on the canvas when the bell tolled for the final time, at the end of an explosive six minutes.
It had been a surprise that the judges’ scores were tied when totted, but it was Gallagher who got their deserved nod when consulted by the referee, John Mongan.
Gallagher would have been declared the winner on scores had it not been for a harsh public warning for a low blow in the second round. Gallagher was in ferocious form and had forced the referee into giving McDonagh a count earlier in the second stanza of a bout that had the capacity crowd on their feet for its duration.
Seventeen-year old Gallagher is preparing for the Open Youth box-offs for the Youth Olympics next month and the Kinletter man was in fine fettle here.
The warning was unjustified by the Olympic BC referee, but Gallagher overcame it in some style.
In a jagged contest, Gallagher was impressive in the opening round, where he’d forced McDonagh off balance with an early clip.
His reaching and weaving was as stylish as his punches were powerful.
Before the final round, both boxers received a stern grilling from the referee, but it was Gallagher who was the man on the edge. Twice in the final two minutes he had McDonagh partially out through the ropes in what was quite the display in the bout of the night. As the clock inched towards the midnight hour, Gallagher was energised by the crowd and he set to work on finishing the Olympic BC man inside the distance.
He took the 2-1 verdict when the judges were consulted, after the warning deprived him of a points win.
“Michael was outstanding,” Finn Valley ABC’s Head Coach, Conor Quigley, said.
“He’s a very powerful young fellow. He’s a tough boy. He has a lot to learn yet but at the same time he is an exciting boxer. In another couple of years he could be an exceptional fighter.
“For the future, he is an exceptional talent.
“Any man that takes a full-blooded shot from Michael Gallagher won’t be standing. It’s as simple as that. I see him in here, I take him on the pads and I see him sparring. He’s leaving men on the floor with sixteen-ounce gloves on.
“It’s hard to get matches for the likes of Michael Gallagher. For Christ sake I wouldn’t stand in front of that man in a ring, never mind asking another seventeen-year old to do it!”
He turns 18 next month and will have those Open Youths to get stuck into.
Francis Mongan and James O’Brien are also eyeing up a tilt at those Championships and both were victorious on Saturday night.
Seventeen-year old Mongan conceded five years against Colin Whitlaw of Olympic, but it was the local man who showed the mettle.
A clever, over-the-top right hander in the third round was the highlight for Mongan. He’d won the first round, but dropped the second to the experienced Whitlaw. But Mongan emerged a different boxer for the third round. That the judges’ papers scored him 30-27 for that round says much about an excellent performance from the Finn Valley ace.
Quigley said: “It was a good display. He was up against it from day one, but he did the business.”
O’Brien, too, heads for the National Stadium next month on the back of a richly-encouraging win at this tournament. He claimed a unanimous decision from his contest against Sean McDermott BC’s Martin Feeney. ‘Nugget’ O’Brien set the tone with a commanding first round and he rarely looked back, mastering this bout from the ring’s centre and ensuring that he kept Feeney on the back foot for the most part.
O’Brien’s was a classy display and it was a night of real encouragement for the local club.
“That was a brilliant tournament for these lads,” Quigley said.
“They have to want it now at the next level.”
“It’s all about the lifestyle outside of the two hours that we have them on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. They have to be so dedicated and committed. When you go to elite level it’s a business.”
One thing that stood out from Saturday was the calibre of the boxers.
Quigley enthused: “That was one of the best tournaments we’ve had since we took a Welsh team in here six years ago. Taking another team in from Galway with the boxers unknown; that excites them. It’s a different opponent and they don’t know what to expect.
“The quality was outstanding. That is real value for money.”
FINN Valley boxer Michael Gallagher travels to Wales this weekend to train and spar with former World Champion Nathan...