Why Walsh's departure is a sucker punch for Irish sport
Published 24/10/2015 | 02:30
There have been great coaches who contributed to many sports in this country over the years. Names like Mick O'Dwyer (Kerry), Brian Cody (Kilkenny), Kevin Heffernan (Dublin), Eamonn Ryan (Cork Ladies Gaelic football), Declan Kidney and Eddie O'Sullivan (rugby) and, in national boxing, there was Billy Walsh (Wexford) - he too is among the greats.
Walsh found his niche coaching the Irish Olympian boxing teams under the guidance of the first founder of the 'high-performance unit' for boxing. Our teams were successful in the last two Olympics and at European and World championships.
He learned from the best coaching techniques in countries like Russia and was sought after by countries after the London 2012 Olympics. He and his teams won seven boxing medals out of 10 Olympic medals won by Ireland since 2000. He received the Freedom of Wexford from his home county in 2012. He guided the young boxers this month to one gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the World Amateur Boxing Championships.
All good things come to an end - the news broke last week that he may accept an offer from USA Boxing to become the head coach of the USA's women boxing team for the next two Olympics.
Walsh was first offered this opportunity in the summer and went over to see the facilities, but stayed in Ireland when offered a new contract by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) with the support of the Irish Sports Council. There were unresolved issues. He eventually resigned and left last week to begin the process.
Olympic gold winner Katie Taylor said he is an extraordinary man and amazing coach, who had done so much for Irish boxing and for her over the years. The chairman of the Irish Sports Council, Kieran Mulvey, was dismayed at the news and strongly supported Walsh.
I wish Walsh the very best. He worked hard for Irish amateur boxers to be among the best in the world. He is one of the good guys in boxing and says he will be delighted for Ireland's boxers if they do well in the Rio 2016 Olympics and that they'll be well prepared by the other coaches.
1916 and our homeless crisis
I think that housing the homeless takes priority over any commemoration of 1916 and can in fact be made part of the commemorations if we go about it in the right way.
The present Government does not have a republican ideology and that is making the concept of commemorating the 1916 rebellion a bit farcical unless there is a change of heart and an acknowledgement that those from whom votes were borrowed in 2011 are in fact republicans.
I would like the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and for Finance, Mr Howlin and Mr Noonan, to consider the possibility of launching a new initiative in public housing. The initiative would involve the issuing of 2016 commemoration bonds which would have a 100-year life and would fund the construction of public housing to meet the needs of those who cannot provide a home for themselves and are unlikely, due to their circumstances, to enter the private housing market. These bonds could be promoted in the US and elsewhere, where Irish people have settled and would like to join us in commemorating 1916.
Construction would commence under emergency legislation within two months. Interim accommodation in the form of mobile units would be provided on a turn-style basis as the homeless wait for the completion of new builds. Local authorities could prioritise the fast-tracking of sites through planning and provision processes.
I'd also suggest an emergency response award scheme in the form of a one-off additional bonus of up to five days' paid annual leave for council staff who demonstrate effective delivery, once projects are completed on a per-council basis.
This suggestion embraces the republican philosophy, generates employment, increases the housing stock and engages our friends abroad.
The only problem is that Fianna Fáil is not in government to implement it. Would Fine Gael ever consider the role of the public in building communities that mirror the value systems of the people?
Lucan, Co Dublin
Harsh lessons from RWC
Despite the great pain of Ireland's premature exit from the Rugby World Cup, the positives to be borne in mind are that the national team still retains an excellent and world-class team coach in the form of Joe Schmidt and we have a promising group of young players to be developed over the next four years.
The fundamental reason for Ireland's early exit, which was contributed to by the loss of a number of our best players before the quarter-final, was something which cannot be rectified by the national team's head coach alone.
It was and is the same malaise which affects all the European nations; namely, the cultural disparity in skills between the top nations of the southern hemisphere and those of the northern hemisphere. These stem from the differences in emphasis from junior rugby upwards.
In the southern hemisphere, from grassroots level upwards, there is a much greater emphasis on running and attack rather than on kicking (a largely defensive action).
There is also a preference to divide under-age teams by weight rather than by age, so similar-sized players will play against each other in competition rather than having early-developing boys simply barrelling through smaller boys their own age (as happens in Ireland) who do not have the size or weight to really test the skills of their larger peers. Implementing these lessons will help future Ireland teams compete at World Cups.
Finally, we have seen how the quality of Argentine rugby has benefited enormously from regular competition with the standard-setters of the game (Argentina now play the All Blacks twice a year on average).
What is needed for the northern hemisphere is a fundamental restructuring of the annual international competitions.
The Six Nations (which does not prepare Ireland adequately for defeating the best of the southern hemisphere) should be amalgamated with the Rugby Championship in order to provide regular competition for us with New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
If rugby does not make these changes, Ireland and the other five nations we regularly compete with will arguably continue to lose to the southern hemisphere at Rugby World Cups.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin