Boxing: Trio secure London calling card
BELFAST teenager Michael Conlan will be trying to show the Irish rugby squad the way to victory today by beating Wales in a World Championship quarter-final.
Conlan, Darren O'Neill and John Joe Nevin secured qualification for the 2012 Olympics after reaching the last eight in their respective weights in Baku, Azerbaijan, yesterday.
However, 17-year-old Joe Ward, the current European light-heavyweight champion, agonisingly lost out on an Olympic place on a countback to Ehsan Rouzbahani of Iran after a 15-15 tie.
Ward was hotly tipped to advance, but the experienced Iranian, whose game plan appeared to be to stop the Irish teenager from boxing, did just enough to book his ticket for the 30th Olympiad.
The St Michael's, Athy pair of Roy Sheehan and David Oliver Joyce, who both left absolutely everything in the ring, also lost out -- as did Tipperary's Con Sheehan.
Roy Sheehan dropped an 11-7 decision to Lithuanian welterweight Egidijus Kavaliauskas, while Joyce was left devastated after a 32-30 reversal to Indian lightweight Jai Bhagwan.
Joyce was docked two points after receiving a harsh public warning from the Brazilian referee for pushing in the final four seconds of the bout -- a decision which handed victory to Bhagwan.
Con Sheehan was retired in the third round of his super-heavyweight clash with Roberto Cammerelle, the 2008 Olympic and two-time World champion.
Belfast braveheart Conlan came from behind to oust Nordine Oubaali 20-17 after dropping the opening frame 6-4 to the French 2008 Olympian and World 2007 bronze medalist.
"I'm so glad, so happy. I'm over the moon. I pushed it, put my heart and soul into it and gave it everything," said the 19-year-old St John Bosco BC flyweight, who meets Welsh European champion Andrew Selby today.
O'Neill, meanwhile, led from just after the opening bell to the concluding chime to record his second victory in-a-row over Mladen Manev of Bulgaria, the Kilkenny southpaw hammering out a 19-12 verdict over three rounds.
O'Neill will face Ryota Murata this afternoon. The Japanese middleweight has already caused uproar in Baku after stopping Uzbekistan's two-time World champion, Abbos Atoev, in round three in the preliminaries.
O'Neill, a teacher at the Holy Trinity school in Dublin, said he was putting the homework to one side for a few hours yesterday to relish realising a lifetime ambition.
"It's a dream come true. It's brilliant. This is the stuff I have been dreaming of since a young, young age. My two dreams were to medal at a major competition -- I've now done that -- and qualify for the Olympics.
"Today we had a game plan. We knew that boy was very strong. He hits very hard with both hands. I'm a big puncher myself, but even at that, I was thinking there's no need to get involved here because I have the boxing skills."
Nevin, who boxes out of the Cavan BC, qualified for his second successive Olympiad with a count-back win over Mongolian bantamweight Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu.
The 22-year-old, who took standing counts in the first and second rounds, was trailing by two points going into the third, but fought back magnificently to level the contest at 18-18 before advancing on accepted scores.
Nevin, who won bronze at the 2009 World Championships in Milan, will be looking to match that today and put the record straight against Orzubek Shayimov of Uzbekistan in the 56Kg quarter-final.
"I'm over the moon, my second Olympics and the man that beat me in the Olympics was a Mongolian," he said. "I'm happy with my performance. Once I caught him I knew he was going to jump because he was caught silly."
Ward, Joyce and Sheehan, meantime, will be keeping their fingers crossed over the coming days.
The two last-16 losers beaten by the finalists in the eight weight classes from light-fly to light-heavy will qualify for the Olympics, so the Irish trio will be hoping that their conquerors go on to box for gold.
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