Lightweight stars Katie Taylor and David Oliver Joyce one victory from place in Rio
Published 14/04/2016 | 02:30
Ireland's male and female lightweights Katie Taylor and David Oliver Joyce are one victory each away from qualifying for Rio 2016 after winning their quarter-final bouts at the European Olympic qualifiers in Samsun, Turkey yesterday.
Taylor eased past Denmark's Yvonne Rasmussen on a unanimous decision and Joyce beat Vazgen Sufaryants of Belarus on a unanimous verdict after a toe-to-toe slug fest.
Antrim's Brendan 'Wee Rooster' Irvine, the No 1 seed in the flyweight class, is also through to the last-four and has one foot on the plane to Rio after posting a split decision over France's Elie Konki.
But London 2012 Olympian Darren O'Neill was beaten last night by Azerbaijan's No 1 seed Abdulkadir Abdullayev in the heavyweight class on a split (29-28,29-28,28-29). The Kilkenny southpaw will have one final opportunity to try and make Rio in Baku, Azerbaijan in June, but he must win gold there to do so.
Joyce, the No 3 seed, meets Wales' Joe Cordina, the No 2 seed, in the semi-finals tomorrow knowing that a hat-trick over the Cardiff fighter will guarantee a place at the 31st Olympiad. Cordina, the current European champion who Joyce beat twice in the 2012, received a walkover after Italy's Domenico Valentino failed a medical.
The top three males qualify in Samsun and even if Joyce or Irvine don't win they'll still get a second shot at qualification in a box-off for third place with the other beaten semi-finalists.
Taylor doesn't have the same luxury as her male team-mates. She must reach the final as only the top two qualify in the women's weights.
The Olympic champion faces Azerbaijan's Yana Alexseevna Friday in a repeat of the inaugural European Games last-four cliffhanger which Taylor edged en route to gold in Baku last summer.
Meanwhile, Ceire Smith and Christina Desmond lost on split and unanimous decisions to Tetyna Kob of the Ukraine and Hungary's Petra Scatmari yesterday.
Irish interim head coach Zaur Antia praised his team after their quarter-final outings by the banks of the Black Sea.
He said: "Big hearts, big psychological sprits all round from David and Katie. David did his business against a very tough boy. Katie and David were very good. The team all performed."