Monday 26 September 2016

John Treacy: Committed Billy Walsh offered to work as a contractor – appalling treatment of celebrated coach

Published 20/10/2015 | 08:19

Billy Walsh
Billy Walsh

Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy has vowed to find out the "non-financial" reasons why Billy Walsh resigned in his role with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA).

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The Wexford man's decision to take up a post in America means that Ireland parts company with its most successful Olympic coach after eight months of trying to negotiate a new deal failed.

He said the IABA had "not made it possible" for him to continue in his role and admitted the last eight months had been particularly stressful.

The IABA said everything was done to keep the respected coach.

"For the avoidance of any doubt, the IABA has done its utmost to retain Billy Walsh as Head Coach," they said in a statement.

In his statement released yesterday, Walsh thanked the Irish Sporting Council for their efforts in trying to solve the impasse which led him to resigning, adding the body worked "tirelessly" to find a solution.

Speaking on RTE Radio One's Morning Ireland programme, Irish Sports Council John Treacy admitted that a thorough investigation is needed to determine the non-financial reasons why Walsh left his post.

Treacy told listeners that the Sports Council had "20 to 30" interventions with the IABA to outline the urgency of the deal, and while it had been agreed by all parties, a sub-committee of the IABA decided not to bring the deal to the board.

When pressed on why the sub-committee took that particular course of action, he said: "I'm not quite sure. I think they believed why it wouldn't pass the board."

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Treacy paid tribute to Walsh's patience and commitment to sign a new deal and believes the fault lies with the IABA management.

"Billy Walsh showed incredible flexibility around the financial aspects. He agreed to leave his full-time position in the AIBA and become a contractor.

Billy Walsh's departure is certain to leave a huge void in Irish boxing
Billy Walsh's departure is certain to leave a huge void in Irish boxing

"That's a clear indication that Billy Walsh wanted to stay. We wanted to keep him. Money was not an issue. It broke down on the non-financial aspects.

"I'm not sure what they are, but we'll be certainly looking to find out over the coming days.

"To watch Billy Walsh, sitting on the couch and talking about being undermined and humiliated, it is appalling. To have that celebrated man treated in that way is really disappointing."

London Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin led a chorus of outrage last night over the loss of Walsh.

Billy Walsh has resigned from the IABA
Billy Walsh has resigned from the IABA

"IABABOXING should be shamed," tweeted Nevin after Walsh's patience finally snapped over the Association's reluctance to tie him down to a long-term deal.

Multiple world champion Katie Taylor lamented the loss of "an extraordinary man" to Irish boxing, while double Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes expressed concern that Walsh's departure could now trigger the loss too of his right-hand man, Zaur Antia.

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Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes said the departed Walsh leaves a "big gap to fill" while 2012 Olympic boxing captain Darren O'Neill lamented the huge loss to the sport.

"He's a fantastic leader, a top class coach," he said.

"Along with Gary Keegan, he has transformed Irish boxing, has changed the whole culture. We have some great coaches in the system, but what he will be a huge loss."

With regards to having full say on team selection, an issue that appears to have been a bone of contention for Walsh, O'Neill is in little doubt that the coach should have final say.

"Billy should have the primary pick in the team. I think there should have been a little more autonomy."

Meanwhile Walsh is expected to sign a contract with USA Boxing in Memphis, Tennessee this weekend.

Walsh travels to the USA on Thursday and will attend the USA Olympic trials which begin at the Convention Centre in Memphis on Monday.

The Americans have announced that Queen Underwood will not be competing in Tennessee and a “new face” will take the lightweight spot on their team.

Ireland’s Katie Taylor, the current Olympic, World, European and European Games lightweight champion, beat Underwood three times, but the American almost shocked Taylor in the 2010 World Championships in Barbados.

Underwood was ahead in the final minute of that contest, but Taylor came from behind to edge a 18-16 decision under the old computer scoring system.

Mikaela Mayer, Jajaira Gonzalez and Tiara Brown will be amongst contenders for the USA lightweight vest in Memphis.

It will be part of Walsh’s job to prepare the lightweight that emerges from Memphis for the 2016 AIBA World Women’s Elite Championships and Olympic qualifiers in Kazakhstan in January.

Taylor will be aiming for her sixth successive title in Kazakhstan.

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