BOXING: Heartbroken Sean McGlinchey fears he’s missed his final shot at winning Irish title

GUTTED . . . Oak Leaf ABC light-heavyweight, Sean McGlinchey has been forced to  withdraw from the Irish Senior Championships due to illness.
GUTTED . . . Oak Leaf ABC light-heavyweight, Sean McGlinchey has been forced to withdraw from the Irish Senior Championships due to illness.

‘HEARTBROKEN’ Oak Leaf amateur boxer, Sean McGlinchey believes he’ll never get another chance to be crowned Irish Senior champion after he was forced to withdraw from this weekend’s National Championships at the final hour.

The Creggan man, who surprised many boxing pundits last summer when he won bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, was struck down with a highly contagious skin infection on Christmas week.

Diagnosed with Impetigo on his face, McGlinchey failed to recover in time to resume full training ahead of this weekend’s tournament in the National Stadium, Dublin.

It was a bitter blow to take for the light-heavyweight who was advised by his doctor and coaches to pull out of the competition, and it wasn’t the first time his hopes of winning an Irish title were devastated by an untimely illness.

McGlinchey was left with no option but to withdraw from the 2014 Irish Senior Championships after suffering food poisoning just days in advance of the tournament’s first bout.

And McGlinchey feels his latest medical set-back has robbed him of a final, and best chance, to be crowned Irish champion and claim a first ever Irish Elite title for his Brandywell club, Oak Leaf ABC.

“It’s a big blow,” he said. “This is two years in a row now. It’s sickening because I’ve been training all over Christmas, I’ve been dieting which is even harder because I couldn’t train the last couple of weeks.

“I still kept hoping until the final minute but I knew in the back of my head that I wasn’t going to make it,” added McGlinchey. “For it to be taken away from you just like that by a simple illness, it’s heartbreaking. It’s just another untimely illness for me.”

The talented southpaw first started getting symptoms of the infection the Monday before Christmas and it got progressively worse, to the point where the pain was so bad he had to stop sparring.

“It’s a common bacterial skin infection,” he explained. “I first started getting symptoms the Monday before Christmas. My skin was very bad. I had red spots on my face and they were sore.

“I didn’t feel the best and I started to get sore heads. I was sparring with Eamonn O’Kane and Connor Coyle the next day in St Joe’s ABC.

“I sparred a few rounds which didn’t go too good. Afterwards my whole face started to swell up right down to my neck.

“The next Saturday I got up to go to work and it was really sore, so it started to worry me. The doctor told me what it was and prescribed me an antibiotic which took me up until Saturday past.

“At that stage it was touch and go whether I would recover in time for the Irish Seniors. I was a full week training out but the antibiotics didn’t kick-in and I got a cream which didn’t really work either.

“I was hoping to spar the start of this week but I couldn’t take the impact and because it’s so close now and the fact I’ve already missed two weeks of training, I’ve been advised to pull out.

“Mentally I wouldn’t have been right either. I’m coming off the back of a bronze medal at the Commonwealths and I don’t want to be going down to Dublin and getting beat and people thinking I’m making excuses if I say I’m sick.”

While he’s hoping his failure to compete at the championship won’t affect his chances of qualifying for next year’s Irish Olympic boxing squad, he doesn’t foresee himself getting the chance to box for an Irish title again, having set his sights on turning professional next year.

“This is a massive year for me,” he insisted. “The decision didn’t come lightly. The Olympic qualifiers start this year I don’t want the other boys getting ahead of me.

“It’s a big decision and I had to sit down with the coaches and we decided it wasn’t going to happen. We were hanging on too long for it. It didn’t get any better and we had to pull out.”

Given his success at the Commonwealths, McGlinchey would have been rated highly going into the tournament and he feels he would have brought home gold.

“I was looking at the entrants and in my head I was looking at fighting Darren O’Neill in the final as he would be the favourite going into the tournament.

“I have the confidence that I could do it. The best chance I’ve ever had of winning an Irish Senior title would have been this year. I would have been either favourite or second favourite to win.”

As hard as it is to take for the Creggan lad, he refuses to dwell on the disappointment and is planning on keeping himself fighting fit for whatever lies ahead in 2015.

“It’s easy to dwell on it but I’m not even down as an Ulster Elite champion even though I believe I won my final last year. I won the bronze medal at the Commonwealths. But even if I don’t win the Irish or Ulster championship and I go on and turn pro and win something more prestigious then I’ll be happy with that.

“It’s not the be all and end all. There’s no point in chasing it. If I really want to win it then I stay amateur and win it. I missed the opportunity and if it doesn’t work out for me this year then I don’t think I’ll be amateur for when the next seniors come around. So it probably was my last chance. It’s heartbreaking but I won’t dwell on it.

“I might go down and watch the competition but I have to pick myself back up and keep myself fit. I want to be ready if there’s a box-off and I want to be ready to go. Hopefully I get other opportunities too. I’ve been sparring professionals recently, like Eamonn O’Kane, and Steve Collins Jr. and I’d like to keep my options open that way too.

“Maybe if the amateur game doesn’t work out and I don’t get the opportunity of a box-off then I could look into turning pro. If I didn’t get to the Olympics I would turn pro, possibly at middleweight. I think the pro game would suit me better and it’s an option.

“That’s the next step so if there is any pro boxers out there looking for a sparring partner - I’m available. Maybe I could catch someone’s eye and you never know what could happen then.”