Ambitious challengers get a chance to earn their spurs


WITH several reigning champions no longer in contention, opportunities arise for ambitious challengers to earn their spurs when the semifinals of the National Senior Championships take place at the National Stadium.

Ten places in the finals will be at stake tonight, from bantam to super heavy.

Already into the final stages are the light flyweight and flyweight divisions. In the former, the reigning "champion, Jim Prior from Darndale in Dublin, takes on James Rooney for Belfast's Star club, while in the fly-weight division Liam Cunningham, from Ballymena, meets the experienced Don Hosford from Greenmount in Cork.

Taking pride of place tonight, however, will be the welterweight division, where the champion, Neil Gough, from St Paul's in Wexford, meets Sean Barrett, for Rylane in Galway, on one side of the draw, and Francie Barrett, from Olympic in Galway and now fighting out of the Trojan club in London, takes on Seamus Cowman from St Paul's.

A bout between Gough and Barrett would, surely, attract a huge crowd to the National Stadium, and that is what the Irish Amateur Boxing Association are hoping for. It is a likely outcome given the records of Gough and Barrett.

Barret is already in the finals of the English championships and nothing would please his supporters more than if he could do a rare double.

The move of Damaen Kelly, the reigning flyweight champion, to the bantamweight division was unexpected, but he still has two bouts to go before claiming the bantamweight title, although he must be favoured to do so.

Kelly will meet William Valentine in tonight's semi-final and, given success in that bout, would - then have to dispose of either Damien McKenna from Drogheda or Noel Hazlett from St Brigid's in the final.

The middleweight division also contains the ingredients of a spicy final. The current champion, Brian Magee from the Holy Trinity club in Belfast, takes on Tommy Donnelly from Tyrone in one semi-final, while the Romanian, Ciprian Surugiu, may have some trouble in the other half of the draw against the vastly experienced Denis Galvin from Moate.

In the light heavyweight division, Stephen Kirk from the Cairn Lodge club in Belfast must be favourite to retain his title.

The super-heavyweight division, is an all-Ireland affair. The four contestants represent the four provinces, with Dean Ward for Ballymun representing Leinster when he takes on Stephen Reynolds from Sligo representing Connacht.

The other semi-final involves Brendan Kirrane from Limerick and Munster meeting Tom Clare from Buncrana and Ulster.