Thursday 23 November 2017

Zaur Antia to lead Irish boxers until after Olympics

A general view of the gymnasium at the Institute of Sport High Performance Training Centre in Abbotstown (Photo: Sportsfile)
A general view of the gymnasium at the Institute of Sport High Performance Training Centre in Abbotstown (Photo: Sportsfile)

Cathal Dennehy

The Irish boxing team will remain under the guidance of interim head coach Zaur Antia until after the 2016 Olympics, according to the CEO of Sport Ireland, John Treacy.

However, the team is expected to relocate its training base to the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown over the coming months, where work on a new national boxing centre is nearing completion.

Speaking at the announcement of the new €4m high performance centre at the Irish Institute of Sport yesterday, Treacy said Sport Ireland once again has a good working relationship with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), a partnership which was strained in recent months after the controversial departure of former head coach Billy Walsh.

"It's business as usual," said Treacy. "Zaur has been in the system a long time and everyone acknowledges he is a fantastic coach and does a great job. He's worked with Billy [Walsh] down through the years, so it's a case of getting on with it.

"We'll give him and the IABA 100 per cent support."

Treacy acknowledged that many lessons had to be learned after the departure of Walsh, who left his position last October for a role with USA Boxing, and he expects the IABA to begin the process of appointing a permanent head coach after the Olympics in August.

"We need to make sure we do everything we possibly can to keep talented people in the country," said Treacy. "We've lost people in Sport Ireland in recent times who've been headhunted. After every Olympic cycle there are high performance people leaving countries, and we'll be on the look-out."

As the countdown to the 2016 Games continues, Treacy believes the conflict between Sport Ireland and the IABA has now been resolved.

"We've all moved on, dusted ourselves off and got on with it," he said. "You build confidence over time. You look into people's eyes and you either see sincerity or not, and we see sincerity [with the IABA]. We'll be giving them every support over the next few years."

Gary Keegan, the director of the Irish Institute of Sport, is confident of a bright future for Irish boxing as the team prepares to make the training centre its permanent base in the coming months.


The facility boasts four Olympic-sized training rings and one competition ring, each with four cameras installed overhead to enable detailed performance analysis.

"We're finishing their facility in the next four weeks, and then we'll sit down with the IABA and work it out," he said. "Hopefully in the next eight weeks we'll have the Irish boxing team on site."

Plans are also in place to construct 150 rooms to house athletes at the National Sports Campus, which will enable the Irish boxing team to host joint training camps with international teams.

Ireland currently has four boxers qualified for the Olympics - Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Steven Donnelly and Joe Ward - but this number is expected to rise after a series of international events between April and June.

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