Sunday 25 February 2018

Golden girl Walsh leads Irish team to fourth spot

Michaela Walsh, Ireland. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Michaela Walsh, Ireland. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Bernard O'Neill

Michaela Walsh vowed going into the European Union Elite Women's Championships that no one was going to take the gold medal away from her.

And the Belfast bantam claimed the EU 54kg title in Cascia, Italy on Saturday on a unanimous decision over Germany's Azize Nimani to become the only Irish female boxer apart from Katie Taylor to top a podium at this level.

But Dublin lightweight Kellie Harrington had to settle for silver after dropping a majority decision to Finland's Mira Potkonen - who beat Taylor at the Rio Olympics in the Bray woman's last amateur fight before turning pro - in Saturday's 60kg final.

Walsh, Harrington and Gráinne Walsh won gold, silver and bronze in Italya to match the identical and record haul of the 2013 EU squad. Ireland finished in fourth spot in the medals table at the 19-nation tournament in Cascia.

Walsh, Kristina O'Hara and Ciara Ginty weren't included in the original team, which was made up of five boxers in the Olympic weights - the three current Olympic limits and the two that are expected to be confirmed shortly.

However, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) then added Walsh, O'Hara and Ginty, who withdrew, to the panel of Harrington, Gráinne Walsh, Christina Desmond, Dervla Duffy and Carly McNaul.

Michaela Walsh, who was only edged out on a split decision by two-time Olympic champion Nicola Adams in the 2014 Commonwealth final, won four fights, all on unanimous decisions, versus England, Moldova, Sweden and Germany in seven days in Cascia.

"It was tough enough but I came through, so I did. I've been working very hard. In the past I got bad decisions and bad draws, but this one, I wasn't letting anyone take it away from me," said the Monkstown BC champion.

Focus "I'm trying to get as much international experience as I can (in lead up to Toyko 2020 qualifiers). Every fight is step toward that. That's the main goal and the main focus.

"At that start, it was the Olympic weights that were picked. Then they (IABA) decided to include me, Kristina and Ciara. The IABA thought we were strong enough to go and they made the right decision. I knew going here that I was able to get a gold medal, I came back with a bang."

Dimitry Dimitruc and Jimmy Payne were working Ireland's corner in Italy. Bernard Dunne, the IABA high performance director, was Irish team manager at the eighth edition of the tournament.

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