Thursday 20 July 2017

Olympian Darren O'Neill: They don't care about boxers. It's all about power, ego and control

 

Clonmel’s Dean Gardiner (right) after defeating Martin Keenan of Rathkeale in their 91+kg box-off. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Clonmel’s Dean Gardiner (right) after defeating Martin Keenan of Rathkeale in their 91+kg box-off. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Bernard O'Neill

Dean Gardiner may have won the battle last night, but it remains unclear who will win the war.

Former Olympic boxing captain Darren O'Neill was the latest to hit out at the Irish boxing chiefs over the furore caused by the super-heavyweight selection of Gardiner (Clonmel BC) ahead of Martin Keenan (Rathkeale BC) by the IABA Central Council on the Irish squad for this month's European Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

That issue was resolved in the ring at Dublin's National Stadium last night, with Gardiner securing his place for Ukraine by winning a box-off against Keenan on a 4-1 split decision. However, much damage has been done before they stepped inside the ring.

"Here we are again a week before we go to a major championships and all this s**t is unfolding again," said O'Neill, who will represent Ireland in the heavyweight division in Ukraine when the action begins in two weeks' time.

Bottom "We're heading off to a championships next week and they are expecting us to do well and they can't sort out their own shop.

"It's high time they (Association) started putting themselves at the bottom of the ladder where they belong and putting the boxers at the top of the ladder. They don't seem to care about the boxers. It's all about power, ego and who is in control."

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA), represented by president Pat Ryan and Joe Christle and officials, had an 8.0am meeting yesterday with the Minister for Sport Patrick Donovan and Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy in Government buildings.

Ryan described the meeting as positive but warned against outside interference in team selection.

Treacy indicated that boxing's funding could be cut if changes within the IABA are not forthcoming and does not want to see interference in the team selection of Bernard Dunne, the new IABA High Performance director. He also wants to see changes to the IABA rulebook completed by the end of June.

A statement from the IABA last night confirmed that the new rule book, which takes into account the Rio Review recommendations, is almost complete.

"The IABA can further confirm that a draft Rule Book which provides for all the Rio Review recommendations was prepared in March by independent consultant Sarah O'Shea of SOS Sport Consult following consultation with both the Board and the Central Council Rule Book Committee," it read.

"The board of directors have since then sought several meetings with the Central Council to discuss the proposed new Rule Book but the Central Council have not yet been available to meet."

The rulebook, the Constitution of Irish amateur boxing, can only be ratified by Ireland's clubs. There are approximately 380 boxing clubs on the island of Ireland.

It appears to have been agreed at yesterday's meeting that Joe Christle is the chairman of the IABA board of directors, a bone of contention between the board of directors and some of the other directors who cite David O'Brien as their de facto chairman, although this issue is still not resolved.

Treacy said: "Clearly this is a deeply divided board and there's different factions within the organisation. That is not corporate governance and that would be of real concern to ourselves, to the Minister and to the Department."

"You can't have committees making decisions around high performance, you can't have committees making decisions around team selection."

However, the IABA Central Council, who ratified the Irish squad for the Ukraine, maintain that the position of super-heavy, as proposed by High-Performance, was between Keenan and Gardiner via a box-off, according to IABA secretary Al Morris.

He explained that the proposal for a box-off wasn't seconded and that Gardiner was selected for the European Championships on a 13-4 vote by delegates ahead of Keenan, with one abstention.

Despite last night's defeat, Keenan was philosophical.

"The one I'm really going to go for is the Olympics. That's the one that's the most important. This is just experience," he said.

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