CORK boxing is this week rejoicing with the news that Leeside's Thomas McCarthy has been crowned Elite bantamweight champion of Ireland for the 2018 season.
This is the fourth Elite belt to come to Cork over the last four years, with potential Olympian and treble champion Christina Desmond winning the other three titles.
The elevation of McCarthy to Elite champion is a just reward for a boxer who has now completed the grand slam in Irish amateur boxing.
He has won All-Ireland belts in every grade including underage juvenile, cadet, Intermediate/Senior and his eight All Ireland success is the jewel in the crown; the Elite title.
The win is a momentous occasion for Cork boxing as McCarthy has become the first male holder of an Elite belt since Eanna Falvey of the St Colman's BC claimed a title in 2002.
On Saturday, February 24 2018, McCarthy, following some big performances, qualified for the 56kg final at the National Stadium in Dublin.
The National Stadium was packed to capacity on the evening, and the pageantry and elegance of the occasion were enjoyed by all on Irish boxing's biggest night of the year.
McCarthy's bout was listed as No.13 on a 16-card fight. Representing the Setanta BC, he had in his corner head coach John Morrissey assisted by Edwin Healy.
The Setanta BC man had a lot of support at the home of Irish boxing in addition to Mick O'Brien representing the County Board and Councillor Fergal Dennehy representing the Lord Mayor of Cork.
McCarthy was no stranger to the National Stadium as he has already won six Irish titles at the venue with the Mayfield BC, coached by Danny Fitzpatrick and Brian Cronin.
The previous year he'd secured an Intermediate belt representing the Douglas BC and was coached by Stephen O'Mahony and David Dunlea.
This was to be the biggest fight of his career, and his opponent was Evan Metcalfe of the Hyland Academy in Dublin.
McCarthy looked sharp, calm and confident in the ring. Leading up to the final his coach John Morrissey put in long hours with his boxer and left no stone unturned. Every tactic was carefully analysed.
Morrissey had put a lot of forward-thinking into the fight. The final was acknowledged as a very even contest, and McCarthy was in no doubt what was required.
In the build-up to the bout, he'd benefited from Morrissey's experience as an international boxer and coach.
Morrissey has both experience and ring craft, and McCarthy was the beneficiary of his knowledge. From the first bell, both boxers exploded into action and supporters were treated to a see-saw struggle as both men found the target.
Each combatant attempted to carry the fight to his opponent, and this produced great counter-punching which saw each man display good footwork, and they ducked, weaved and parried punches to the delight to the crowd who were now on their feet.
By the end of round two, the scores appeared to be one round each. In the third and final frame, McCarthy looked like he had the upper hand and as the final bell sounded the Cork contingent at the venue were united in the belief that their man had done enough.
But to a hushed hall came an amazing announcement. Following a 3-2 split decision, Metcalfe got the verdict.
Cork hearts melted and there was widespread disbelieve particularly amongst neutrals. For McCarthy, the decision was gut-wrenching, while in his corner there was utter disbelief which quickly turned to frustration.
However, on the night the decision stood. Subsequently, it was established that Metcalfe had taken a banned substance, and following a time-consuming investigation, he was stripped on his title by the IABA.
Cork County Board President Michael O'Brien then made representations of behalf of McCarthy and Cork boxing and made a compelling case that he be installed as champion.
However, this was followed by a period for legal appeals which never took place and following an Officer Board meeting of the IABA last weekend, the President of the IABA Dom O'Rourke declared that Thomas McCarthy was the 2018 bantamweight champion of Ireland.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday next, on September 22 at Cork City Hall, a ceremony will be hosted by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Joe Kavanagh, and Thomas McCarthy will be presented with his long-overdue Elite title by IABA President Dom O'Rourke. The 2018 champions will be congratulated by the Lord Mayor of behalf of the people of Cork.