'Devastated' O'Neill misses out on second Olympics tilt
Published 21/06/2016 | 02:30
Darren O'Neill was left "devastated" after his ambitions of becoming a two-time Olympian ended at the penultimate Rio qualifiers in Baku yesterday.
The Kilkenny heavyweight dropped a unanimous decision (28-27, 28-27, 28-27) at the last 16 stage to Nigeria's Wesley Apochi after a 91kg brawl in the Azerbaijan capital.
O'Neill received a public warning for lowering his head in the second round, while Apochi received boxing's equivalent of a yellow card for a low blow in the third.
"I'm gutted, absolutely devastated," said the southpaw, who captained the Irish boxing team at the 2012 Olympics in London.
"He mauled me in there - I just couldn't create space to box. I boxed well in the first but he began mauling me. I had to win gold out here to qualify and that was always going to be tough."
Asked whether he would now consider retiring, the 30-year-old said: "I wouldn't look that far ahead at this point."
Meanwhile, Laois middleweight Michael O'Reilly, the No 1 seed in Baku, advanced to the last 16 on a unanimous verdict (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over Vitalia Bandarenka of Belarus.
The European Games champion will now meet Mongolia's Shinebayor Narmandakh today in the last 16, with the top five qualifying for Rio.
O'Reilly said: "He was an extremely tough opponent - he just wouldn't go away. I thought I handled him well enough. I'm happy with the manner I performed.
"The Mongolian's a tall orthodox. We'll have a plan and we'll negotiate this one in a different manner. It's good to get the win, but big tests lie ahead."
Tipperary super-heavy Dean Gardiner meets Viktor Vychryst of the Ukraine this afternoon, with the gold medal the only route to the Rio Games.
The final Olympic qualifier will be held in Vargas, Venezuela, next month. Ostensibly a World Series of Boxing (WSB) versus AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) clash, the toutnament is also open to pro boxers.
Mayo light-welter Ray Moylette, who qualified through APB, is the only Irish boxer eligible to compete there.
However, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) do have the option of considering pro boxers for Venezuela.
So far, Ireland's Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes, Brendan Irvine, Michael Conlan, David Oliver Joyce, Steven Donnelly and Joe Ward have qualified for Rio.