IABA to face committee following Walsh debacle
Irish boxing legend Billy Walsh is to take up his new role stateside today after last-ditch attempts to secure his contract with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) failed.
Details of a long-running spat behind the scenes at the IABA started to emerge yesterday, with officials at the boxing body now likely to face an Oireachtas Committee to explain why they failed to secure a contract with their former High Performance Unit coach.
Sport Minister Pascal Donohoe said that he had been heavily involved in contract negotiations for "many, many months" and was surprised when an agreement wasn't reached.
He has called on the IABA to come forward and explain why they failed to secure a deal with one of the "world's best coaches".
"We have now ended up in a disastrous situation in the run-up to Rio, where one of the most successful coaches we have in any discipline or sport in Ireland is not going to be available," he said.
"I want to make a call now on the IABA that they come out and explain why this happened."
He added that the Government and taxpayers needed answers from a body that receives large amounts of public funds.
New Irish Sports Council chairperson Kieran Mulvey said he called on the IABA to give Mr Walsh the contract.
Speaking at the Dáil Oireachtas Transport & Sports Committee, Mr Mulvey criticised the boxing body following Walsh's decision to resign and take up his new role leading the US female Olympic team.
"Gross disrespect has been shown to us and the minister on this matter. And it can't go on. The IABA are a government-funded body," he said.
"It has now come down to a case of do they want him or do they not. It seems to me they don't. In this proposed contract, Billy Walsh was told that he could not engage with the Olympic Council of Ireland, the Irish Sports Council or the media without the written permission of the CEO.
"Imagine Joe Schmidt being told he had to contact Philip Browne every time he wanted to announce a team. This is unconscionable.
"What was Billy Walsh looking for? I think he was looking for respect. And my God did he deserve it. The second thing he was looking for was authority, reasonable authority to run the high performance programme without petty bureaucratic interference.
"There was also a feeling that I sometimes get from meeting the IABA that there's a resentment of the High Performance Unit and of the resources that go into it. Sadly, I don't think Billy wanted to go," he added.
Connacht President of the IABA Joe Hennigan said CEO Fergal Carruth will have no choice but to stand down following the debacle.
"This, from what I can see, was all caused by him and the board of directors. They didn't give Billy the respect and freedom he deserved. Now we are losing one of the world's best coaches just weeks after he led us to gold in the World Championships," he said.
Walsh is the most successful head coach in the history of Ireland's participation in the Olympic Games.