Monday 18 December 2017

Dunne: 'My main vision is to inspire and enable Irish boxers to achieve excellence'

Bernard Dunne is looking forward to ‘a fantastic opportunity and a great challenge’. Photo: SEB DALY/SPORTSFILE
Bernard Dunne is looking forward to ‘a fantastic opportunity and a great challenge’. Photo: SEB DALY/SPORTSFILE

Bernard O'Neill

Bernard Dunne has never been beaten by an Irishman in a fight in Ireland. It's a proud run that was never likely to end in an interviewing process.

Dunne was yesterday unveiled as the new Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) high-performance director on a four-year contract.

The ex-WBA World champion got the decision over a number of candidates, one of which included former Ireland rugby coach Eddie O'Sullivan, as exclusively revealed in the Irish Independent.

"My main vision is we inspire and enable Irish boxers to achieve excellence in performance. Focus on performances and the outcomes will take care of themselves," said Dunne, who will work with head coach Zaur Antia.

"It's about making sure we're giving our athletes the opportunity to be the best they can be."

Vacated

The Dubliner fills the position vacated by Gary Keegan shortly after the Beijing 2008 Olympics following what IABA CEO Fergal Carruth described as a "robust" interviewing process.

Dunne won three Irish elite titles boxing out of Dublin's CIE club before turning pro in 2001.

The Neilstown orthodox, who is completing a Masters in sports exercise psychology at the University of Limerick, claimed the WBA World super-bantam title in Dublin in March 2009, stopping Ricardo Cordoba

But he dropped the belt to Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym in Dublin later that year and retired in January 2010 with career stats of 28 (15 KO) wins from 30 fights.

The 37-year-old, who has stepped down from his role as lifestyle coach with Dublin GAA, believes his experience in the ring puts him in a unique position to relate to fighters.

"I think what will be of benefit to me is that I understand what boxers go through and the choices they have to make," he said.

London 2012 Olympian Darren O'Neill reckons Dunne has the personality to be a success but admitted there were concerns among some boxers when his appointment was confirmed.

O'Neill said: "He's probably the right man for the job at the moment and hopefully he will be strong enough to stand up against those who will fight against him and stand up against the pressure he's coming under from within the Association.

"Initially, we were concerned. There were mixed feelings in the camp because Bernard, having been an RTE analyst, criticised boxers, which is his job as an analyst. I think he has a big enough personality. He has a huge challenge ahead of him."

Dunne will be at the National Stadium this weekend for Ireland's Round Robin with France, Germany, Italy and Russia and has one eye on June's European Men's Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine - the only qualifier for the World Championships in Germany in August and September.

He acknowledged that losing Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes to the pro game was a blow.

"We're going through a transitional stage," he said. "There's no doubt that Paddy, Michael and Katie are some of the finest athletes that this country has ever produced.

"But look at the strength we have in our youth system; we tend to produce at all ages.

"It's about giving young athletes our full attention and creating the values and culture that is right to achieve excellence for themselves and for results.

"It's a fantastic job, it's a fantastic opportunity and a great challenge. It's never about me here, it's about the boxers and making sure that we facilitate them in every way that we can.

"Ultimately, that is what high-performance is about."

Irish Independent

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