Tuesday 27 September 2016

Michael O'Reilly furore will not affect Irish team's medal hopes, insists Zaur Antia

Published 08/08/2016 | 02:30

Irish National Coach Zaur Antia dismissed suggestions that term morale will suffer. Photo: Sportsfile
Irish National Coach Zaur Antia dismissed suggestions that term morale will suffer. Photo: Sportsfile

Olympic boxing coaches Zaur Antia and Eddie Bolger remained adamant yesterday that the Michael O'Reilly controversy will not affect the team's medal prospects.

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With clarity still elusive on the specifics of the Portlaoise middleweight's attempts to clear his name, the likelihood is that Sport Ireland's independently-appointed Anti-Doping Disciplinary Panel will hear his appeal before O'Reilly's first fight on Friday.

Meanwhile, head coach Antia dismissed any suggestions the saga might contaminate spirit within the camp.

"About O'Reilly, I can't say anything at the moment," explained the Georgian. "I don't know anything about this. But I know Ireland always has zero tolerance for that issue. And I am only focusing now to look after the boys.

Read more: Irish boxer Michael O'Reilly suspended after allegedly failing drug test ahead of Rio Olympics

"The situation is excellent, boxers are getting ready for competition. Everybody has focus. They engage my plan and everybody has our agenda."

Asked to put a potential time-line on when they might know O'Reilly's fate, Antia said that he was not in a position to do that.

Read more: 'Profile: Who is boxer Michael O'Reilly?

Controversy

But his response to a question about the controversy affecting the team was unambiguous.

"No, no, no, of course not," said Antia. "We have a strong team, we have a good tradition, everybody has his own focus. Really working with the plan, everybody is quite busy."

Assistant manager Bolger concurred, insisting: "Look I'll be honest with you, because you've asked enough about it, we are loving this. It's absolutely brilliant.

"It hasn't affected us in any way whatsoever. A team of individuals, that's it.

"And we hope to be here at the end of next week, still having conversations with ye.

"We're not talking about it no more."

Steven Donnelly, Ireland's first boxer in the Olympic ring, also played down any potential effect of O'Reilly's difficulties on the rest of the team.

Asked if the controversy had created any turmoil in the camp, he said: "No, not really. It's just old news for us now. We each have to concentrate on our own game. What happens, happens. That's what we're working for.

Read more: Vincent Hogan: How the chaos and confusion unfolded in the Ireland camp in Rio

"We're all concentrating on our own Games and it doesn't affect us at all really.

"We're a strong team and we know how to deal with these situations.

"We're all fine, we're all cheering together, watching TV, on our phones, just messing about. What we usually do.

"Just concentrating maybe a couple of hours before a fight, that's what we do to get focused.

"Team morale's fantastic. It's great."

Irish Independent

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