Saturday 25 March 2017

Boxing: Walsh and O'Rourke get new roles as funding stand-off resolved

Dominic O'Rourke Director of Boxing. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Dominic O'Rourke Director of Boxing. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

An embarrassing stand-off between the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) and the Sports Council has been resolved thanks to a compromise that will give both Dominic O'Rourke and Billy Walsh central, but different, roles in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics.

The Irish Sports Council had refused to fund boxing's high performance director position after the IABA appointed its own president O'Rourke to the role, overlooking their own head coach Walsh, who has been unofficially filling that job since the Beijing Olympics.

The two bodies have been at loggerheads over who should be running the elite end of the sport, which has become a virtual international medal machine for Ireland in recent years.

The Irish Independent can exclusively reveal that their unseemly stand-off has finally ended after a two-man mediation team -- consisting of a nominee from both organisations -- has brokered a deal to which both sides have now agreed.

O'Rourke will be given the director of boxing title -- which includes responsibility for overall national development, from grass-roots upwards -- and Walsh will officially be named as high performance coach.

The two organisations have agreed to this compromise and will declare their support for it publicly in the coming days.

There has also been an additional agreement that a five-person committee -- two from the IABA, two from the Sports Council and an independent Chairperson -- will also be convened in the near future, with the task of producing a strategic review and new five-year plan for Irish boxing.

Apart from his role as IABA president, O'Rourke is a highly respected coach with St Michael's BC in Athy who has produced several boxers who have been Ireland's recent high-profile international medal winners.

But Walsh, as national head coach, has been closely involved with the coaching, development and success of the national elite squads.

Gary Keegan was boxing’s high performance director for the last Olympics, where Kenneth Egan, Paddy Barnes and the late Darren Sutherland all won medals.

Keegan subsequently left to head up the Irish Institute of Sport and Irish boxing’s elite position has officially been vacant since.

A string of international success has followed since Beijing, most recently the five-medal haul at last month’s European Championships.

Such success has made the Irish boxing system the envy of many top sporting nations so it was controversial when the Sports Council refused to fund the IABA’s positions of CEO and director of high performance, declaring itself unhappy with the boxing association’s recruitment process.

Funding for both positions will now be forthcoming. Don Stewart will remain as IABA chief executive.

Irish Independent

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