Michaela Walsh got her 2019 off to the perfect start by successfully defending her title at the National Elite Championships, her seventh national crown.

Once again she was officially the woman to beat in the 57kg division.

For the 25-year-old featherweight, it was the latest in a series of achievements that have seen her become one of the top prospects in Irish boxing.

Last summer, Walsh won her fourth major international medal, defeating then reigning featherweight world champion Alessia Mesiano on her route to claiming bronze at the European Championships in Bulgaria.

Her career so far has been a 12-year journey that has seen her climb the podium at the Commonwealth Games twice, and prove that she’s up there among the best in the world in her division.

But where did it all begin for the Belfast boxer? She can pinpoint exactly the moment that made her.

Walsh was a teenager when she first put on a pair of boxing gloves for the first time. Her younger brother had taken up the sport, and she was intrigued.

She was permitted to go along to training with him and that fateful first session turned out to be a formative one.

“The moment I realised that this was for me was actually when I first started boxing,” Walsh told RTÉ Sport.

“I only started because my brother was doing it, and I wanted to copy him. I was 13 years old at the time, and went training alongside a whole group of young boys.”

As the only girl training with a group of boys, Walsh stood out – not because of her gender, but because of her solid work ethic, which was on display for all to see.

“I remember training away, and one of the coaches said ‘look at that girl,she’s training harder than you all’. I loved hearing that, it actually made me want to train harder.”

That first impression that Walsh made during that session in her local boxing club is one that she has stayed true to.

Self-belief in both her work ethic and her ability are strong attributes of her character, with a meticulous approach to both preparation and performance.

With European Games, European Championships and World Championships on the horizon in 2019, it’s all eyes on Walsh.

“I have always been told I’m one of the hardest trainers, that has stuck with me, and I believe that’s why I’m so good. I always push myself and always work hard to achieve my goals.”