Sunday 25 September 2016

Michael Conlan and Joe Ward through to European finals in Bulgaria

Sean McGoldrick

Published 14/08/2015 | 13:47

Joe Ward will box for another European gold medal
Joe Ward will box for another European gold medal
Michael Conlon exchanges punches with Frederik Jensen, Denmark, during their 56kg Bantam weight quarter-final bout.

Joe Ward is through to his second European boxing championship final. Four years after he sensationally won a gold at the 2011 event at a 17-year-old in Ankara he will feature in another decider in the 81kg light heavyweight category.

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The Moate southpaw comfortably saw off the challenge of the Croatian number one seed Hrvoje Sep who lacked nothing in effort but never seriously troubled the Irish champion. Ward scored with all the clearer punches and dominated the opening two rounds.

The Croatian made a gallant effort to make a comeback in the final round and two of the judges gave him the round but Ward strolled to a comfortable 30:27; 29:28, 29:28 win.

In tomorrow's final Ward will meet Dutchman Peter Mullenberg, the number two seed, who beat British boxer Joshu Buatai on an unanimous points decision. An orthodox boxer the Dutchman lacks Ward's class, but anything can happen in a final.

Two years ago Ward looked set to defend his 2011 European title in Minsk but dislocated his knee in the closing seconds of a preliminary round bout and was forced to withdraw. So technically the 21 old has never lost a bout at the European championships.

Coupled with Michael Conlan's semi-final victory earlier Ward's win maintains Ireland's astonishing record of getting at least two boxers into finals at the last four European championships.

In Moscow in 2010 Paddy Barnes (gold) and Darren O'Neill (silver) made the finals. In 2011 in Ankara, Ward was joined in his gold medal winning exploits by light welterweight Ray Moylette.

Two years ago in Minsk Jason Quigley and John Joe Nevin struck gold while Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes won silver - the latter actually had to concede a walkover in the final due to injury.

There was more good news for Ireland in last night's second session of semi-final bouts when welterweight Pavel Kasteamin who had beaten Ireland's Adam Nolan in the bronze medal fight qualfied for the final.

This means that Nolan has now secured a place at the World championships in Doha together with six of his team mates. In the majority of the weight categories in Doha the two finalists will secure their places at the Rio Olympics.

Ireland already have two boxers, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, qualified for the 2016 Olympics regardless of what happens in Doha.

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