Call to shift boxing power over to Walsh
THE Irish Sports Council is on a collision course with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association after the release of its official London 2012 Olympic debrief.
In a comprehensive report which covers 15 sports and runs to 90 pages and nearly 10,000 words, one paragraph stood out – the 40 words which suggested a switch in the balance of power from amateur boxing's blazers to head coach Billy Walsh.
At present, Walsh, who has overseen a dramatic improvement in Irish boxing's international performances within the last decade, can, theoretically, have his team selections vetoed by the IABA – an issue which the Irish Sports Council believe is preventing Ireland from achieving even greater success in the ring.
Prepared by UK-based consultants, Knight Kavanagh Page, on behalf of the ISC, the report suggested it was time for change, time for "key IABA members or committees to cede (team selections) entirely to the performance director (Walsh)".
Currently, IABA committees have the authority to overturn or challenge selections made by Walsh, who is head of the high performance unit, and to ask boxers to enter 'box-offs' for places on Irish teams.
The matter could come to a head when Walsh recommends his squad for the European Championships, which will be held in Belarus in June.
The boxing council, which contains representatives from all four provinces, will deliberate on Walsh's recommendations and they could makes changes to his selection.
Otherwise, the detailed analysis of Ireland's Olympic performance had a largely positive spin on it, noting how Ireland had jumped 20 places in the medals table from 61st position at the Beijing 2008 Games to 41st in London, as well as pointing out that athletics, canoeing, equestrian, modern pentathlon and sailing produced eight further top-10 finishes.
Their research also found that the various governing bodies were, by and large, improving structurally and thereby likelier to produce medalists in Rio.
However, a couple of stinging rebukes were also notable, particularly for athletics, which was hauled up over their communication practices.
"It is fair to say that this is not our strongest suit," admitted Athletics Ireland's chief executive John Foley yesterday. "But we will learn a lot from this report. We will embrace the recommendations and seek to improve our systems.
"Okay, we didn't get a medallist in London, but there were several (six) top-16 finishes and we have since won medals in the European Cross-Country and European Indoors."
Interestingly, Horse Sport Ireland, which produced a medallist and two further top-10 finishes in London, was recommended to "rigorously implement new processes designed to eradicate issues associated with horse doping and hyper-sensitivity to ensure that the sport continues to build upon its growing reputation for a 'clean' approach."