Conlon and O'Neill move into last 16 of European Championships, but Casey fails to make the weight
Olympic bronze medallist Michael Conlan has received a bye into the last 16 at the European boxing championships which have begun in the Bulgarian city of Samokov.
Now operating in the bantamweight division, Conlan – who won a silver medal as a flyweight at the championships in Minsk in 2013 - will meet France’s Anthony Brett on Monday. The Belfast boxer is the number one seed in the 56 kg class.
Wexford native Dean Walsh has also received a bye into the last sixteen. He too will be in action on Monday in the light welterweight division against either a Romanian or Norwegian opponent.
Former European champion Joe Ward, who failed in his bid to qualify for the Olympics via the newly launched AIBA pro series (APB) is back in the hunt for an Olympic spot via the conventional route.
But the Moate light heavyweight will have to beat a Russian opponent on Sunday in order to advance to the last sixteen at the Euros. In the welterweight division London Olympian Adam Nolan meets a Turkish welterweight on Saturday.
For the first time these championships are a qualifier for the World championships in Doha in the autumn which in turn are as a qualifier for the Rio Olympics.
Two Irish boxers, Conlan and Paddy Barnes – who missed the trip to Bulgaria having undergone hand surgery earlier this year – have already qualified for Rio.
Three others, light flyweight Brendan Irvine – who boxes in the same weight division as Barnes – lightweight Sean McComb and middleweight Michael O’Reilly have already qualified for Doha thanks to their medal winning exploits at the new European Games in Baku in June. As a result they are ineligible to box in the Europeans and Ireland cannot replace them.
The top six in each weight division in Samokov – the four medallists and the quarter-finalists beaten by the eventual gold and silver medallists will qualify for Doha.
Clonmel super-heavyweight Dean Gardiner got the championships off to a winning start for the Irish with a unanimous points wins over Delalic Abdulnaser (Bosnia & Herzegovia) to set up a last-16 date with Croatian Filip Hrgovic who is the number one seed in the 91 +kg weight division.
The Irish captain Darren O'Neill is also through the last 16 in the heavyweight class after he beat Lithuania's Tadas Tamasauskos on a split decision.
But there was embarrassment for Limerick flyweight Myles Casey as he failed to make the 52kg weight and was eliminated from the championships.
His unplanned exit means that Ireland will not have a representative in the flyweight category at the World championship in Doha later this year.