Tuesday 12 November 2019

O'Neill believes battle scars are the mark of a champion

Darren O’Neill celebrated his title win with a trip to Santry Sports Clinic on Saturday
Darren O’Neill celebrated his title win with a trip to Santry Sports Clinic on Saturday
Darren O'Neill

Bernard O'Neill

KILKENNY southpaw Darren O'Neill believes scars are proof the past really happened.

The London 2012 Olympian edged Ken Okungbowa on a split decision to claim his fifth title at the National Elite Championships at the National Stadium on Friday night.

But the five-time champion had to get 21 stitches to his wounds on Saturday after a number of accidental head clashes with the towering Athlone heavyweight in the 91kg decider.

However, O'Neill, who won four of his previous belts at middleweight, believes an Elite title is worth it. He said: "They (scars) are not nice to have, but I'd prefer to have them than not have the Elite title. I said to Gerry Hussey (sports psychologist) at the Europeans a few years ago that scars are proof that the past really happened.

"I know how hard it is to win an Elite title and it's a dream for me to come back in my ninth final and win a title at heavyweight. It's all worth it in the end."

O'Neill also has one eye on the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan this summer.

"I'd love to say that I represented Ireland at the first European Games," added the European Elite silver medallist.

O'Neill's fellow Olympian Adam Nolan beat Beijing Olympian John Joe Joyce for the welter title, while defending champions Dean Walsh and Michael O'Reilly retained their belts.

Brendan Irvine, Myles Casey, Sean McComb, Kurt Walker, Dean Gardiner, Roy Sheahan and Dean Gardiner also emerged victorious at the home of Irish boxing.

Meanwhile, Galway's Debbie O'Reilly beat Mayo's Louise Donohue to claim the lightweight title vacated by Olympic champion Katie Taylor because of injury in Saturday's Elite women's finals at the Stadium.

World No8 Claire Grace retained her welterweight belt on a split decision over Youth Olympian Christina Desmond and Dervla Duffy KO'd defending 57kg champion Joanne Lambe in the fourth round.

Lauren Hogan, Ceire Smith, Kelly Harrington and Diana Campbell also had their hands raised in victory.

"We're absolutely over the moon," said Liam Brereton, Hogan's coach at the St Brigid's BC in Offaly. "Lauren is still only 18 and she's already won an U18 title, a European Youth bronze medal and now a senior title."

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