By Matt Bevan (@MBevs68)
Peter McDonagh produced a career-best display to end the animosity between himself and Dean Byrne to claim an Irish title at a third weight. McDonagh won 97-95 on the scorecard at the National Stadium in Dublin to add the welterweight strap to his collection of green belts.
‘The Connemara Kid’ tore up the script, as everyone, including Byrne, expected a tear-up, however the 37-year-old, whose record improves to 25(3)-28-1, boxed beautifully at times and giving Byrne, who falls to 17(6)-6-2, plenty of problems with his jab and a right hand that he seemed to land at will in the early going.
Byrne looked at a loss at times, but ‘Irish Lightning’ kept marching forward and did eventually drag McDonagh into a war by the end of the fight, although it was too little, too late from the 31-year-old.
McDonagh, the Galway man, won the first four rounds at a canter, with Byrne struggling to catch him with anything significant until the third, which he still lost. The Crumlin fighter was roared on by vociferous support, but he was running out of ideas fast.
He did finally win a round in the fifth, which was exceptionally close and it appeared that McDonagh was succumbing to his instincts and looking to trade with Byrne. However, at the behest of trainer Danny Vaughan he was back on his bike in the sixth and back on top by the end of the round.
Byrne was lacking any sort of urgency and playing right into McDonagh’s hands, as he failed to build on any momentum he picked up after the fifth. Trainer Peter Sims finally had enough and read him the riot act before the eighth, which forced him into life.
The eighth was an excellent round as both men put everything on the line, in particular Byrne who gutsily dug in and enticed McDonagh into the war he wanted all along. He carried on in the ninth and you sensed a late turn around was in the offing.
But a low blow that put McDonagh down led him to losing a point from referee Mickey Vann, which led to more verbals as Vann warned both. Byrne nicked the round, but it was scored level due to the infraction and he needed a knockout to win it.
It wasn’t going to happen as McDonagh never once looked in trouble and he boxed well to secure the victory and bragging rights over his rival.