London calling for Irish trio
O'Neill, Nevin and Conlon box clever in Baku
DARREN O'Neill led a trio of Irish fighters into the London 2012 Olympics today as all three reached the qualifying standard by winning their last-16 bouts in the World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Kilkenny middleweight, a former European silver medallist, beat Bulgaria's Mladen Manev 19-12 to reach the quarter-finals and admitted securing his place at next summer's Games was "a dream come true".
O'Neill added: "This is the stuff I've been dreaming of since I was young age. My two dreams were to medal at a major competition and to qualify for the Olympics, and now I've done them both."
Cavan bantamweight John Joe Nevin reached his second Olympics after nudging past tough Mongolian Otgondalal Dorjnyambuu on countback after an 18-18 draw.
Nevin said: "I'm over the moon to reach my second Games."
Flyweight Michael Conlan pulled off another superb win, this time over French second seed Nordine Oubaaali 20-17, to qualify and reach the last eight where he will face Welshman Andrew Selby.
But there was heartache for 17-year-old light-heavyweight Joe Ward and team-mates Roy Sheehan, Con Sheehan and David Oliver Joyce, who all bowed out and will have one more chance to qualify next year.
Ward lost to Iranian Ehsan Rouzbahani following a countback in his last 16 bout while Joyce, who produced a superb performance to beat Mohammad Khaiber of Afghanistan in the previous round, went down 32-30 to Jai Bhagwan of India.
Con Sheahan lost out to Roberto Cammarelle of Italy. The Irishman was losing 17-10 when his corner threw in the towel in round three.
Roy Sheahan was also beaten, going down 11-7 to Egidijus Kavaliauskas of Lithuania.
With the exception of the super heavyweight division, the boxers who have been beaten in the last 16 have not lost all hope of direct qualification to the London 2012 Olympics through their Baku exploits as they can also qualify if the boxer who beat them make it to the final of these championships.