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Harrington leads Ireland team chasing Olympic spots

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Kellie Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Kellie Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Kellie Harrington. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland have named the 13 boxers - eight men and five women - who will bid to secure qualification for the Tokyo Olympics at next month's European qualifier tournament in London's Copper Box Arena. The event runs between March 14-24.

Belfast flyweight Brendan Irvine is the only survivor from the eight-strong squad that competed at Rio in 2016. Plagued by injury over the last 18 months, he was beaten on his return by Botswana's Mohammed Rajab at a tournament in Hungary last month. However, Irvine gets the nod ahead of Tyrone teenager Jude Gallagher, the current Irish Elite flyweight champion.

As expected, 2018 world champion Kellie Harrington (above) has seen off the challenge of her lightweight rival Amy Broadhurst from Dundalk for the 60kg slot.

The Dubliner made a successful return to the ring at the multi-nations tournament in Sofia last month - following surgery on her thumb - where she secured a silver medal. The London tournament will be a historic one for siblings Michaela and Aidan Walsh from the Monkstown Boxing club in Antrim.

Secure

Irish champion Michaela will box at featherweight while Aidan held off Oughterard's Kieran Molloy to secure the welterweight slot.

Elite flyweight champion Ceire Smith from Virginia gets the berth at 51kg while reigning European middleweight champion Aoife O'Rourke was an automatic selection. An injury to Grainne Walsh meant that Elite champion Christina Desmond was a shoo-in for the welterweight spot.

Lisburn's Kurt Walker - Ireland's best hope for a medal in Tokyo - gets the nod ahead of Sligo's Dean Clancy at featherweight.

Elite champions George Bates (light welterweight), Emmet Brennan (light heavyweight) and Kirill Afanasev (heavyweight) all get the nod, while Tipperary super heavyweight Dean Gardiner gets a chance to become an Olympian having missed out four years ago.

"We've some really good athletes pushing each other for places, so it has been a challenge to select our squad, but we have picked the best team to compete at the first qualifier in London," said Bernard Dunne, the High Performance director of the IABA who had the task of choosing the boxers.

"We would be looking for some good performances from our team. We have two opportunities to qualify, London and Paris, so we will review the squad post-London.

"They've worked extremely hard to get to this point, so if they perform to the best of their ability in London, then that is all we can ask of them."

Irish Independent