Neilstown trio fly the flag

by Dave Donnelly
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Neilstown Boxing Club will be represented by three fighters at the first-ever European Schoolboy and Schoolgirl Championships in Varna, Bulgaria this week.

13-year-olds Winnie Christina McDonagh and Joe Hutchinson, and 12-year-old Ryan Murphy, will fly the flag for Neilstown as part of a 22-strong Irish team at the prestigious tournament.

All three fighters have been rewarded for picking up national titles at the National Stadium last month.

McDonagh captured the girls’ three 61kg belt with a unanimous win over St Anne’s Laura Moran, while Murphy won at 59kg and Hutchinson at 62kg.

The west Dublin club – which was named best club at the All-Ireland Cadet Championships as all three boxers retained their titles – are the best-represented club in the Irish squad.

“They’re all boxing extremely well,” Neilstown Boxing Club head coach Gerry Fleming told the Dublin Gazette as the squad prepared to fly out via a layover in Istanbul.

“They’re all comfortable in the weight and are looking forward to it now. Hopefully they get a good draw and the rub of the green and fair play, which is most important.”

The Irish team will be up against it with their schedule as they landed in Varna early on Tuesday morning and were due to weigh in just four hours later.

“It’s not the ideal preparation. We should have been given a rest day – they should have gone over a day before to rest.

“It’s going to be hectic and it’s going to be very tough on anybody of the Irish team because they’re going to have been travelling right throughout the day and night.

“You’ve to fly into Istanbul, then you’ve to fly to Varna. It’s going to be a tough task but they’ll give it their best shot.”

Fleming is hopeful that all three can medal, especially if they manage to avoid boxers from either the hosts or traditional boxing powerhouses Russia and Ukraine.

“I definitely think the three of them are all fully capable of pulling a medal. We have to get a bit of fair play, please God.

“You’ll have your prelim, your quarter-final, and if you win that and get into the top four you’re guaranteed a bronze medal.

“I’d just hope we don’t draw a Russian or a Ukrainian. They’d be the main favourites to make a clean sweep.

“Anybody outside of them we’ll take, whether it be a Croatian or an Italian or a Swede or a Dane, bring them on.”

All three fighters have been with the club since they were nine and their success has provided a boost to the local area, with the Supervalu in Rowlagh particularly supportive with sponsorship.

“It’s a fantastic level to get onto at that age, to go out there and wear the green vest and represent your country. You couldn’t buy it. It’s great for the area.

“It’s a working class area, a tough area to grow up in.

“Everybody in the area is so proud of them to have three going out there on the plane. It’s given the whole place a big lift.”

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