Monday 23 April 2018

If ever a sporting body needed a Dail probe...

Ireland's Dean Walsh. Photo: David Fitzgerald / Sportsfile
Ireland's Dean Walsh. Photo: David Fitzgerald / Sportsfile

Eamonn Sweeney

You've heard of the gift that keeps giving. Well, the breach of discipline committed by Michael O'Reilly and Dean Walsh during the Olympic boxing qualification tournament in Turkey could be the mistake that keeps taking away.

Not only were the duo fined ¤5,000 each and sent home from the tournament, tomorrow they'll face box-offs in which they must win again the right to represent Ireland at the final Olympic qualifier in Azerbaijan. On the face of it this seems pretty draconian punishment and I've seen some criticism of the IABA along the lines of, 'first Billy Walsh, now this'.

But with Katie Taylor making it through to the Olympics last week Ireland, now has six boxers going to the Games. There's not just quantity there's quality too.

Sport Ireland told new Minister for Sport Shane Ross last week that Ireland is targeting three medals at the Olympics. Which, given that the boxing team includes world medallists Taylor, Paddy Barnes, Joe Ward and Michael Conlan, sounds like an admission that it's all going to depend on the boxers yet again. That means the IABA should be cut some slack.

I'm not a great fan of box-offs in general but if anyone deserves one it's Mayo fighter Ray Moylette, who'll be taking on Dean Walsh. Two years in a row Moylette has lost questionable decisions in the national finals against Walsh. After this year's defeat Moylette pronounced himself fed up with it all. You could tell he thought his chances of making the Olympics gone for good. Now he's received an unlikely reprieve and the chance to prove his point conclusively. It should be some fight.

Those with a desire to lambast dysfunctional sporting organisations should instead turn their attention to Athletics Ireland, who for the second Games in a row have hit the headlines with a selection decision which seems to go against natural justice.

Last time out AI left Joanna Mills out of the relay squad though she had a much faster time than Catriona Cuddihy who did, however, have a sister on the team and unlike Mills came from this side of the border. The immensely promising Mills has since quit the sport.

This time round it's Sergiu Ciobanu who's been shafted. Ciobanu was one of four Irish men's marathon runners who achieved the qualifying time in the Berlin Marathon. He finished second of the Irish but AI have picked Paul Pollock, who finished fourth of the Irish in Berlin, ahead of him.

As Ciobanu pointed out, when it came to the women's marathon, AI picked the three fastest runners this year but opted not to in the men's race. He also said that after the Berlin race he tried to contact Kevin Ankrom, AI's high performance director, on three occasions and didn't even get a reply.

Ciobanu's coach Jerry Kiernan has described the decision as "fucking bullshit," and it's hard to escape the feeling that Ciobanu, born in Moldova but living and competing in Ireland for the last 10 years, is the latest athlete to suffer for not being 'one of us'.

If 'fucking bullshit' was an Olympic event AI would be hard beaten. It would be nice to see them called to explain themselves in front of a Dail committee but I suspect there's not enough headlines in athletics for any politician to take an interest.

Sunday Indo Sport

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