FRANCIE Stokes and Brett McGinley broke new ground for Oak Leaf Amateur Boxing club last week in Russia, the talented local pair claiming bronze medals in the European Schoolboy Championships which were staged in Anapa.
ARTHUR DUFFY reports
But it could have been so much better for the teenagers who both lost out in their respective semi-final bouts against Russian opponents, the margin of defeat very close in both contests.
And while there was disappointment voiced following the defeats, both lads will have taken great comfort from their performances at this level, which will prove to be a significant milestone in their careers to date.
St. Columb’s College schoolboy, Stokes, shocked many when he qualified for the semi-finals in the 40 kgs. category, the 14-year-old defeating Stanislav Kunov, from the Ukraine, 6-3 in his opening contest.
From Rossnagalliagh, Stokes progressed to the quarter-final having defeated Rahim Pashayev (Azerbaijan) much to the delight of the Irish management team.
However, in Friday’s semi-final he was paired against Albert Rodionov from the host nation and while he fought as we as could have been expected, Francie had to give way to the home boxer on a very narrow 8-6 defeat.
Brett, who hails from St. Johnston, also produced outstanding displays having defeated Michael Katz, from Israel, on a very comfortable 16-7 scoreline in his first contest.
And the Deele College lad, the youngest member of the Irish squad at 13 years, faced a tough Armenian, Gurgen Madoyan, in his quarter-final clash. The Donegal lad boxed superbly in that bout to record a hugely impressive 19-7 victory as he made his way into the 59 kgs. final.
In that final on Friday, Brett met Havazh Mutsolgov, another tough Russian, but lost out on a 10-6 verdict after having given his all in what proved another exciting contest.
Guaranteed bronze medals having qualified for the semi-finals, the powers that be at the Brandywell club were thrilled with the progress of their two proteges, club chairman, Eugene O’Kane, delighted that two of his boxers had competed comfortably at such a high level.
Gold Medal Hopes
“Obviously, the membership of our club had been keeping their fingers crossed that both Francie and Brett could have made it through to their respective finals and go on to claim gold medals, which would have been out of this world,” he said.
“But if the truth be told, to bring home a medal of any kind from such high profile championships, is a significant achievement and we’re delighted for both boxers who have served their country, club and their families very, very well.
“They had been impressing in our own national schoolboy and cadet championships which got them selected to travel with the Irish team to Russia, but we really didn’t think they would progress as far as they did.
“I’ve been speaking to some of the coaches involved and he’s told that both boxers gave superb performances. They never took a step backwards and they followed the instructions there were given in each contest.
“But we knew that both lads would give good accounts of themselves and it goes without saying that we’re all looking forward to having the back at the club and congratulating them on their magnificent achievements,” added Mr. O’Kane.
“These performances will also give our club a great boost and it will also inspire our own coaching staff who have prepared our boxers well for not only the national championships, but also for their performances in Europe.
“It’s been a fabulous week for us all and, hopefully, the performances of Francie and Brett will help boost our own membership. Hopefully our club will be acknowledged as competent local sporting organisation which prides itself in producing top quality young boxers and, at the same time, a club that instills discipline and character in all those who pass through our doors,” concluded Mr. O’Kane.