The Irish Times

Hat-trick of wins for Walsh and O’Reilly

- CIARÁN GALLAGHER at the National Stadium

Dean Walsh claimed a hat-trick of National Elite Championsh­ip titles at the National Stadium last night after a split-decision win over Ray Moylette, while World Championsh­ip medallist Michael O’Reilly also accomplish­ed the same feat.

In a rematch of their 2015 final, Wexford native Walsh, nephew of former Ireland head coach Billy, emerged after another tight battle with Mayo’s former European champion Moylette.

The 2016 tournament took place over the last month as the Irish Amateur Boxing Associatio­n (IABA) opted to stage the national competitio­n early in preparatio­n for those Olympic qualifiers next year.

Ireland have so far qualified four boxers for Rio 2016 Michael Conlan (56kg), Paddy Barnes (49kg), Joe Ward (81kg) and Steven Donnelly (69kg) – meaning finalists at those weights were only fighting for national pride, while all four of those qualifiers did not participat­e in the 2016 tournament having already booked their Olympic places.

But Olympic slots remain at the remaining six weight classes and Walsh and O’Reilly are among those likely to be on the plane to the European qualifier in Istanbul next April.

At middleweig­ht, O’Reilly started at a fast pace against first-time finalist Connor Wallace of Newry and the defending champion from Portlaoise kept that up throughout the three rounds.

Wallace enjoyed some success in the second round, with the champion picking up a cut on his forehead, but O’Reilly was back to his best in the third en route to claiming a 3-0 unanimous win and a third Irish title in a row.

“I wouldn’t say there was pressure on me but knowing I was the hot favourite made me more relaxed going in, more confident,” said O’Reilly, who narrowly missed out on Olympic qualificat­ion at the Worlds last October.

“I’m over the moon now because I can go back and get ready for the Olympic qualifiers in April.

“That’s the next hurdle for me,” added O’Reilly.

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