Champions, Former Champions, Sons of Champions and Ladies at Loughrea Tournament

     The driving rhythms of Thin Lizzie's "Jailbreak" rang out over the sound system in a heaving Temperance Hall on Thursday night, as the auditorium lights dimmed, and the great light over the ring lit for the first bout. Loughrea's Annual Boxing Tournament was underway, this one in the club's fiftieth year and attended by the National Registrar of the IABA, Stephen Connolly from Kildare.
Fittingly, the first contest featured a Loughrea debutant in an Exhibition Bout (Boy1:45kg), Ryan Dervan, son of Liam Dervan, a coach in the club and himself a former Connacht champion, against Ben Gabriel (Tobar Pheadair). This may have been only an exhibition and young Dervan a debutant, but the standard of boxing was fit to grace any tournament. Both boxers showed an ability to combine punches well, moved nicely about the ring, and served up a good contest, but Dervan had the greater power and the referee thought it better to stop the fight in his favour in the third round. A performance that augurs well for the future.
     Next Loughrea man into the ring was Sean Sweeney (B1:48kg), son of another former Connacht champion Joe. He began with some good combinations but allowed his opponent, David Ward (Monivea) to catch him on the ropes towards the end of the first round. However using his superior reach he managed to avoid most of Ward's attempts to catch him on the attack. The third round was an oldfashioned attempt by both fighters to establish dominance with continuous exchanges, but Sweeney maintained a solid advantage to the end.
Conall Whelan's father, Ferdy, another club coach and international referee had the distinction of winning an All Ireland title. Conall represented Loughrea at Boy2:44kg against Leon Halion (GBC). He began aggressively, but then settled down to score studiedly with a long leading left, while showing an effective defence to anything his opponent offered. He won well, but could have done even better by taking the offensive more often.
     Another son of a club coach and former Connacht title holder, Eamon McNally, Jake had to be at his best in his Y1:63kg confrontation with Eddie Mongan of Ballinasloe. Both boxers gave their all in a bout that was fought at a furious pace right through to the final bell. McNally won well on points in the end because he had the technique to defend, when under pressure, was able to turn defence into attack and launched scoring punches in the hottest moments of battle. This earned him the accolade of Local Boxer of the Night.
For the first time ever, Loughrea hosted a Ladies boxing contest, when Aisling Hogan of West Clare faced Niamh Mannion of Tobar Pheadair in G3:66kg Exhibition Challenge. The girls presented a contrast in styles, with Mannion's more robust style tending to drive Hogan back towards the ropes, but Hogan showed some skill in escaping from this danger and picked off some good counter punches in the process. The crowd were impressed and gave the contestants a rousing ovation at the end.
     The Lawrence brothers, Martin and William, both of whom have held Connacht titles came up against stiff opposition from the buoyant Monivea club in a Connacht champion and an Irish champion. Martin's opponent was Jamie Kyne (B3:39kg) and this was a bout that was in the balance up to the end. Lawrence took the earlier exchanges, but in a good second round Kyne punched more accurately, though the rising animation of the crowd was an indication of the fascination of the struggle. Kyne made himself a difficult target in the final round for a narrow victory. The crowd roared their approval for both boxers throughout the other contest, where William faced Matthew Moran (Y1:57kg). Moran is a neat, strong boxer, who refuses to cede control of the ring easily, but Lawrence, a taller, rangier boxer tried his best to unsettle him with some good combinations and movement. Not only were the crowd satiated with this, the tired boxers clasped each other in respect at the final bell. Moran was adjudicated the winner, but the spirit of boxing had also been fulfilled.
     Matthew Connelly, son of another Loughrea coach, Martin, was a winner at B3:42kg over Aaron Casey (Oughterard). Jason Ward (Loughrea) beat Andy McDonagh (Connemara) (Y1:50kg) in another crowd-pleaser. Ward had a looping left lead, which was very difficult to defend, and found the target often enough to build up a winning lead. However McDonagh was willing to trade toe to toe for any advantage in the centre of the ring, which brought the crowd to its feet and kept the outcome in doubt. Robert Kerins (Loughrea) was unfortunate to come up against a stronger Martin Ward (Ballinasloe) (B2:59kg). Ward had an all action style, using combinations and some useful body punching in close. Edward Mongan (Loughrea) (B2:44kg) got the crowd behind him early on, as he carried the fight to Stephen Tierney (Oughterard) and built an early lead with some accurate punches. Tierney tried gamely to turn the fight in the final round, which made for tremendous entertainment, but Mongan proved a worthy winner.
Darragh Broderick (Loughrea) (B2:42kg) beat Martin McDonagh of Monivea. He moved nicely about the ring, and scored well when he went on the attack, but work on his combinations will pay dividends for him in the future. Martin Ward (Loughrea) had a difficult opponent in Liam Flaherty (Connemara) (B2:39kg) and could have suffered a heavier defeat if not for some astute and stout defensive work.
Pat Mongan (Loughrea) and James Fahy (Tobar Pheadair) (Y1:75kg) had a tasty affair, where the advantage see-sawed, and though Mongan prevailed, the crowd went home rooting for both boxers, as this was the final fight of the night.
     Referees were Michael McDonagh, Gay Farrell, Ronan Kelly, while those judging were Noel Hogan, Danny Culkin, Tommy Lee, Ray Lee, Pat Mongan, Michael Ward and Catriona Culkin.
The club hope to announce a programme of events to celebrate their Golden Jubilee soon to include the date for a Full Senior International Tournament to be held in the town.
(published in full Conn Trib 16/2/06, different headline)