Antia urges trio to turn bronze into record gold haul
Irish head coach Zaur Antia is hoarse from shouting out instructions at the European Championships in Kharkiv this week - but his message is still loud and clear.
Joe Ward, Kurt Walker and Brendan Irvine, already guaranteed bronze, are aiming to upgrade to at least silver in today's semi-finals, and Antia has his sights set on tomorrow's finals.
"As you can see my voice is gone," whispered Ireland's chief seconds. "Our plan is to do the right things. I am thinking about gold. More important to me is to give them proper plan and I am asking them to implement this."
Irish boxing could surpass its own remarkable record at the last five European Championships this weekend.
Ireland claimed three bronze at Liverpool 2008, and gold, silver and three bronze at Moscow 2010. Ankara 2011 yielded two gold, and Minsk 2013 double gold and double silver. Two gold and one bronze were won at Samokov 2015.
Ward struck double gold in 2011 and 2015 and has played a significant role in establishing Ireland as the No 1 boxing nation in Western Europe at the last four Continental Championships, as has Antia.
Westmeath southpaw Ward meets Italian light-heavy Valentino Manfredonia who beat Darren O'Neill, team captain in Kharkiv, on a split decision in the 2014 EU final.
"Yes, that Italian is a good fighter but if I perform he will have no chance. He'll have his hands full with me," said Ward, the No 1 seed in the Ukraine.
Ward completely outclassed Scotland's Sean Lazzerini in the last-eight, with the Glaswegian antagonising the Westmeath southpaw after slamming down his gloves when invited to touch gloves by the ref before the fight.
"It was the only time he touched me," added Ward, whose fellow Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine meets English flyweight Dean Farrell over three three-minute rounds this afternoon.
Walker is in against Ukrainian bantamweight Mykola Butsenko, who was beaten in the 2013 European final in Minsk by John Joe Nevin on a unanimous decision.