Thursday 23 November 2017

Under the radar - Adam Nolan is happy being an 'unknown'


THE CLOCK struck 6 p.m. when Adam Nolan walked in the door to the family home in The Ballagh, just hours after his final training session on home soil.

It was Thursday evening when he arrived along with his brother, Darren. Adam was flying out to Italy less than 24 hours later to the Irish boxing camp for final their preparations for the Olympic Games which start in London this weekend.

Adam felt alert and relaxed as he was greeted by his father, John, and mother, Ann who was putting the finishing touches to a steak and pasta dinner.

Neighbours began to call wishing him a final farewell and good luck and Adam was not for letting things wash over him, as he greeted all the well-wishers with a smile and thank you. He knew it was a proud time for everyone in the area. A parish which is adorned with huge signs on every ditch and corner.

It's a dream come true for Adam and his mentors, his father John, Martin O'Connor and later on in his career Billy Walsh, who will be in his corner in London as Irish coach. As he lay in bed on that final night at home he must have thought of the eight-year-old child who ceaselessly badgered his mother until she allowed him to venture down to the boxing club in The Ballagh where his father and Martin O'Connor put the boxers through their paces.

He thought too of the scrawny 12-year-old winning his first All-Ireland boys' title with Billy Walsh in his corner. And the 16-year-old winning another All-Ireland.

He remembers Mick Dowling saying he'd be a contender for the Senior title, and coming from that legend of Irish boxing, he appreciated the comment. 'But you don't really take it on board,' he said.

Nolan arrived in Trabzon for the Olympic qualifiers having retained his Irish Senior title. It suited him. No expectations, no pressure. He estimated that before the qualifiers he'd a grand total of six international fights. Joe Ward, seven years younger than the now 25-year-old, could boast at least five times that. 'No one knew me. I'd no C.V. No medals,' he said. 'It couldn't have worked out better.' 'To be honest the Olympics were the last thing on my mind. I had missed the world championships through injury. I still had to retain the national title. The four fights I had in Ireland were every bit as hard as what I had in Turkey in the qualifiers. I fought Willie McLaughlin, John Joe Joyce and Michael O'Reilly, and they were every bit as good as the fighters I faced in Turkey. Gerry Hussey, our psychologist, was trying to drill it into my head. The guys you beat in Ireland are better than what you're going to meet. But I was convincing myself, no, this is a massive step up.'

He remembers back when he was 17 and approaching the first major crossroads in his life. He had signed up for college in Dublin and set his sights on a career in the gardai. He couldn't see where elite-level boxing fitted into his plan. He loved hurling too, heading home at the weekend to play for Oulart-The Ballagh. By then the Wexford Under-21 hurling selectors had him in their sights. Nolan considered all his options and chose hurling.

Four years passed by. He graduated from Templemore, got posted to Bray in 2008. Suddenly the boxing itch returned.

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