Barnes loss shakes Irish team
Shock defeat for three-time Olympian puts boxers on ropes
Published 09/08/2016 | 02:30
Ireland's Olympic boxers were on the ropes last night after losing Paddy Barnes, the "heart and soul of the team", to a shock light-fly defeat.
The Belfast man's split decision loss to young Spaniard Samuel Carmona Heredia has rocked the camp, given Barnes had been seen as one of the strongest gold medal prospects in the eight-strong team that flew to Rio.
With Michael O'Reilly's Olympics hanging by a thread, the Clonmel man needing the blue moon occurrence of a 'B' sample contradicting an 'A' sample to avoid expulsion for a doping violation, Barnes' exit landed a low blow on Irish spirits.
A bronze medallist at the Games in Beijing and London, he revealed afterwards that he would not box again at the penal 49kg weight and ruled himself out of bidding for a place at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
Barnes has always struggled with the light-fly demands and, remarkably, admitted that he failed to make the weight when qualifying for Rio through the World Series of Boxing, his franchise, Italia Thunder, being fined for that failure.
Yesterday, he said that his "energy was completely gone" after round one against an opponent nine years his junior and that, had he made it to one of tomorrow's quarter-finals, "I would have been embarrassed and made a fool of myself."
Assistant coach John Conlan admitted that the defeat was "devastating", reflecting: "Paddy is the life and soul of the camp, he has probably been our most successful boxer ever.
"This is his third Olympics and I personally felt he was getting a gold medal."
Conlan's son Michael now carries Ireland's brightest hopes of a boxing gold, the World, European and Commonwealth bantamweight due to begin his Olympic bid on Sunday.
O'Reilly's fate should be confirmed over the next 24 hours after it emerged that, on advice, he had changed his mind on going straight to appeal and would instead request the testing of his 'B' sample.
It will be an extraordinary turn-up for the books if this resulted in any good news for the middleweight, who has been separated from the rest of the team since Friday.
An appeal on the basis of him unwittingly ingesting a banned product would almost certainly have been doomed, as the responsibility in these cases falls ultimately on the athlete to avoid contamination..
Athy lightweight David Oliver Joyce is Ireland's only boxer in action in Rio today, taking on the No 2 seed, Albert Selimov of Azerbaijan, at 9.45pm (Irish time).