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Meet the 13-strong Irish boxing team hoping to qualify for the Olympic Games


Kellie Harrington

Kellie Harrington


Kellie Harrington

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

Belfast flyweight Brendan Irvine is the only survivor from the eight-strong squad that competed at the Rio Olympics in 2016. He is one of several controversial selections.

Plagued by injury during the last 18 months, he was beaten on his return to action to 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 who was named Best Boxer at the championships late last year.

As expected, 2018 world champion Kellie Harrington 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 Strandja multi-nation tournament in Sofia last month - following surgery on her thumb - where she secured a silver medal.

Coincidentally, the gold medallist and current European champion Mira Potkonen, who beat Harrington in the gold medal fight, also beat Broadhurst in the first round. But having proved her fitness in Sofia, it's no surprise that Harrington has got the nod.

The London tournament will be a historic one for siblings Michaela and Aidan Walsh from the Monkstown Boxing club in County Antrim.

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

Elite Flyweight female 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 and cadet Garda Christina Desmond was a shoo-in for welterweight position.

Even though he didn't compete in the Irish Elite championships, Lisburn's Kurt Walker – who is Ireland's best hope for a medal in Tokyo – was always going to get the nod ahead of Sligo's Dean Clancy for the featherweight position – though the latter is the current Irish title holder.

Elite champions George Bates (light welterweight), Emmet Brennan (light heavyweight) – who replaces Joe Ward who has turned professional – are Kirill Afanasev (heavyweight) all got the nod while the experienced Tipperary super heavyweight Dean Gardiner gets a chance to become an Olympian having narrowly missed out four years ago.

"We have 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," according to 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.

"Preparations have gone well so far, and we head to Italy on Monday for a sparring camp which will then lead us into the qualifier.

"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."

Team Ireland leave for their final training camp in Assisi, Italy, on Monday and return home at the end of the month before heading to London where 77 Olympic places – 50 for men and 27 for women – will be up for grabs in the eight weight classes for males and five for females.

There will be a second qualifier tournament in Paris later in the summer at which boxers from all over the world will compete for the final places in Tokyo.

The full Irish squad is: Ceire Smith (51kg), Michaela Walsh (57kg), Kellie Harrington (60kg) Christina Desmond (69kg), Aoife O’Rourke (75kg). Brendan Irvine (52kg), Kurt Walker (57kg), George Bates (63kg), Aidan Walsh (69kg), Michael Nevin (75kg), E Brennan (81kg), K Afanaseve (91kg), Dean Gardinder (91+kg).

Online Editors