Saturday 17 February 2018

Coach Conlan claims O'Reilly swerved training camp

Michael O'Reilly. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael O'Reilly. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick in Rio de Janeiro

The Michael O'Reilly saga took another sensational turn last night following the claim that the boxer, who was sent home from the Games after failing a dope test, was absent from the Irish training camp prior to the team's departure to Rio.

In a scathing attack on O'Reilly, assistant Irish boxing coach John Conlan - who is Michael Conlan's father - said the boxer had "embarrassed the country, embarrassed boxing, embarrassed AIBA".

But it was Conlan's allegation that O'Reilly hadn't trained with the rest of the Irish squad for eight weeks before their departure to Rio, which will have caused more headaches for the Irish Athletic Boxing Association.

"We had a devastating start to this tournament. I'm not going to go over it much but that guy (Michael O'Reilly) didn't train with us - he hasn't (trained) with us for eight weeks," said Conlan.

Read More: Conlan restores pride as his father slams disgraced O'Reilly

"We met him in the airport, he wasn't part of my team. He arrived in there, shocked us, embarrassed the country, embarrassed boxing, embarrassed AIBA. We had to deal with it."

For some of the time during the eight weeks prior to the team's journey to Rio, O'Reilly was in Baku - initially in a training camp and then participating in the final Olympic qualifying tournament, which he won on June 25 to become the final Irish boxer to qualify for the Games. There was then a 24-day gap between the end of the tournament in Baku and the boxers' flight to Rio.

O'Reilly was in the national stadium on July 2 for a test match between the Irish Olympic squad and a visiting Russian team. He was introduced to the crowd but didn't participate in the boxing.

Meanwhile, world champion Michael Conlan, who began his quest for a gold medal in Rio with a unanimous win yesterday, strongly defended the record of the current coaching team. And he slammed suggestions that the departure of Billy Walsh has weakened the team.

"People are saying these Irish boxers aren't up to the standard that they usually are, but it's a ­series of unfortunate events for us. I don't think Billy's loss is the USA's gain. It's so silly what they're saying 'bring back Billy Walsh'.

"Zaur Antia has been the man and always will be the man. He has always been the main coach and always will be the main coach.

"Billy is a great friend of mine. But Zaur has been the technical genius. Everything that he says is right and everything you hear him shouting, when you do it, it works.

"I think the Americans getting medals is more because of the style right now. It's a professional style. When Billy was coaching us, Billy was always boxing. Billy hasn't just become a professional expert.

"People giving the Irish boxing coaches stick is very annoying, for the boxers and for the coaches. It's adding pressure, unneeded ­pressure, on. Ireland are meant to be behind their own but they seem to be against their own coaches, which is a bit stupid."

Next up for Conlan is a ­quarter- final bout tomorrow against Vladimir Nikitin. The ­Russian beat the Irishman in the quarter-final of the 2013 World championships in Almaty in 2013, but Conlan had just moved up to bantamweight days earlier.

Meanwhile, Katie Taylor begins her quest to defend her Olympic title this morning in Rio.

Irish Independent

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