Sunday 18 February 2018

Government give up on Billy Walsh resolution and demand IABA statement as coach departs for US

Minister Ring denies that IABA funding will be cut as a result of ongoing saga

Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning.
Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning.
Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN
Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN

Conor Feehan and Declan Whooley

Minister Michael Ring has demanded that the Irish Amateur Boxing Association [IABA] this week explain their version of events as Billy Walsh departed for his new role in the US this morning.

The decorated boxing coach left Dublin airport this morning after resigning from his position as head coach of the High performance Unit earlier this week after eight months of negotiations failed to result in a new deal.

Asked to comment on whether he would leave Ireland and sign a contract on the other side of the Atlantic, Walsh said he did not want to say anything.

"I just want to get out of here, that's all.  It's all done. The talking is done," he told as he made his way quickly to the departure gate at Terminal 2.

Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning.
Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN

The trainer of the elite boxing team that has enjoyed great sporting success on an international basis arrived at the airport at 7am and went through the gates for his flight at 7.15.

Wearing a quilted black jacket, navy jeans, and brown shoes, and carrying a travel neck pillow, he said nothing more as he presented his boarding card and passport.

Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning.
Billy Walsh pictured at Dublin Airport this morning. PIC COLIN O'RIORDAN

As the fall-out continues, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport Michael Ring told Newstalk's Jonathan Healy that he has given up on the chance of persuading Walsh to change his mind, but has demanded that the IABA offer their version of events publicly.

"I got John Tracey to ring Billy Walsh yesterday, I got John Tracey to ring Billy Walsh on Monday," he told listeners. "He reported back to me to say that he is going to America and is going to take up the offer [USA Boxing].

"That's the decision Billy has made and I wish him well and thank him for all the work he has done in Irish boxing.

"I met the Irish Amateur Boxing Association yesterday. I brought them in to see what went wrong and one thing I asked them to do - and to do it today - and I hope they make that statement before this day is out and they assured me that they will be making a statement.

"I told them that they have to put their side of the argument out there and people have a right to know that. I have asked them, and I'm asking them again to immediately come out with their side of the story and to get somebody to articulate their point of view."

Irish Sports Council chairman Kieran Mulvey indicated that funding may be cut to the IABA as a result of the saga, but Ring insisted this would not be the case.

"That will not happen. I can assure the IABA that won't happen. I will not allow the grassroots of the sport to be effected," he said.

Ring added that one of the reasons that the IABA couldn't come out and explain their side of the story was simply that Walsh was an employee and there were certain contractual rights until he resigned.

"They can now come out and talk about what happened."

Walsh's departure from the IABA led to comments of shock and outrage from star boxers including Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, and Paddy Barnes, who expressed concern that Walsh's departure could now trigger the loss too of his right-hand man, Zaur Antia.

Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Barnes said the departure Walsh leaves a "big gap to fill" while 2012 Olympic boxing captain Darren O'Neill lamented the huge loss to the sport.

"He's a fantastic leader, a top class coach," he said.

"Along with Gary Keegan, he has transformed Irish boxing, has changed the whole culture. We have some great coaches in the system, but what he will be a huge loss."

The Wexford man's decision to take up a post in America means that Ireland parts company with its most successful Olympic coach after eight months of trying to negotiate a new deal failed.

Walsh this week said the IABA had "not made it possible" for him to continue in his role and admitted the last eight months trying to negotiate a new contract had been particularly stressful.

The IABA said everything was done to keep the respected coach.

"For the avoidance of any doubt, the IABA has done its utmost to retain Billy Walsh as Head Coach," they said in a statement.

It had earlier been speculated that Walsh had resigned for money reasons, but John Treacy said Walsh showed incredible flexibility around the financial aspects of any future contract.

"He agreed to leave his full-time position and become a contractor. That's a clear indication that Billy Walsh wanted to stay. We wanted to keep him. Money was not an issue. It broke down on the non-financial aspects," said Treacy.

"I'm not sure what they are, but we'll be certainly looking to find out over the coming days," he added.

"To watch Billy Walsh, sitting on the couch and talking about being undermined and humiliated, it is appalling. To have that celebrated man treated in that way is really disappointing," he said.

Treacy paid tribute to Walsh's patience and commitment to sign a new deal and believes the fault lies with the IABA management.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Pascal Donohue also called on the IABA to issue a statement following Walsh's resignation.

"The discussions between the IABA, Mr Walsh, Sports Ireland and my own department have been ongoing for many, many months," the Minister said.

"There is widespread dissatisfaction where it stands now

"This is why I think it's very important that the IABA come out publicly and give a statement on the matter.

"I think they should accept an invitation to go into the Oireachtas committee on sport and talk about the matter publicly.

"What we need to continue to do is look at how Irish boxing wins in the long run despite the huge difficulty and issue over what has happened."

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