'It's great for Irish boxing and it's great for Irish sport' - Kellie Harrington brings European Games medal haul to six
Kellie Harrington brought the number of medals gained by Irish boxers at the 2019 European Games to six following her win over Italy's Irma Testa in Minsk this evening.
The Dublin fighter will claim at least a bronze medal after winning on a split decision in her Lightweight quarter-final clash with Testa.
The scoring in the Harrington fight emphasised the inconsistencies in the judging system in boxing which is at the root of much of the problems currently bedevilling the sport.
An Australian judge scored the fight 30-26 in Harrington's favour; one judge scored it 30-27 for her while two others had her winning by the minimum margin 29-28. But an Egyptian judges saw the fight in an entirely different light and favoured the Italian 29-28.
Irish Amateur Boxing Association High-performance Director Bernard Dunne tweeted his praise for team captain Harrington:
#TeamIreland have now moved to 6 medals with our captain taking the step into the semi final with a very controlled and disciplined victory. A leader in and out of the ring.🇮🇪👊 pic.twitter.com/yx3GfrJG7C— Bernard Dunne (@Bernard_Dunne) June 26, 2019
Harrington added: "It was a real twitchy fight. It was like a cat and mouse, but I don’t know who the cat was or who the mouse was!
"I felt like I was landing the cleaner, heavier shots than hers. I felt like I won all three rounds comfortably, so I'm happy with it.
"It felt great to be back in the ring, I haven’t had a fight since February so I'm happy with the performance and I know now that my fitness is there and that will drive me on in the next fight.
"Some people think 'oh you're a top seed, it's great' but being a top seed you have to wait longer, it's more mental torture than anything. It's great to be on the same team where everyone else is medalling – it's great for Irish boxing and it's great for Irish sport."
Aoife O'Rourke, however, was beaten this evening in her middleweight quarter-final encounter with Lauren Price of Great Britain.
Earlier in the day, Michaela Walsh, Grainne Walsh and Kurt Walker guaranteed at least bronze medals also after their victories over German, Finnish and French opponents.
On Tuesday, fellow boxers Regan Buckley (light flyweight) and Michael Nevin (middleweight) also won their quarter-finals to place among the medals and bring the Irish total to six for the Games.
Michaela Walsh claimed a split decision win over reigning world champion Ornella Wahner of Germany to qualify for the semi-finals of the women's featherweight division.
The Belfast native was favoured by four out of the five ringside judges in the contest.
"I feel great, I felt a bit surprised that I had a split but obviously I was against the current World Champion," Michaela said afterwards. "It was amazing to get that win. I had a tough draw, but that’ll make winning the gold medal more worth it.
"Since she won gold in my weight my eyes have been on her - I've been wanting to fight her for a long time. I boxed her as a youth boxer in the semi-finals of the World Championships, and she beat me by one point and stole my dream of becoming a youth world champion, so I wasn't going to let her steal my dream of becoming a European Games champion.
"Thankfully I'm into the next stage now, but I'm not satisfied yet - the job's not done yet."
Grainne Walsh also secured a bronze medal, beating European champion and current world bronze medalist Elina Gustafsson from Finland in the welterweight division.
"This is what dreams are made of," a thrilled Grainne said.
"I’m actually a bit emotional, it’s a great achievement and I’m just delighted with myself. I felt my technique and my speed would be enough to beat her, I had to bite down hard – that’s two tough fights now in three days but the job is only half done now, I’m fully focused to go the full way."
Kurt Walker claimed Ireland's fifth medal at the Games in the bantamweight division. The fourth seed booked a place his semi-final place with a unanimous decision win over France's Samuel Kistohurry of France.
Two judges scored 30-27 in favour of Walker.
"It feels brilliant," he reflected afterwards. "It's probably the first ever time I’ve fought in that style : he was too fit to keep off and he would have caught me on the back foot so I had to fight his style which I’ve never really done, so I'm just glad I tried it and won myself a medal.
"That's two tough fights now, but I'm happy, I’m improving every time. Our team is flying at the moment so it's brilliant."