Monday 22 January 2018

Naturally gifted...but not unfamiliar with controversy

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

Vincent Hogan

He was the last Irish boxer to qualify for these Olympics but Michael O'Reilly may now be the first one home.

The Portlaoise boxer, seeded number three in the middleweight category, was considered a live medal prospect in Rio having only qualified at the final qualifying tournament in Baku last June.

He received a bye in yesterday's draw and is not due in the Olympic ring until this day week against an opponent from either Mexico or Iraq.

A naturally gifted southpaw, he is the reigning European Games champion and won a bronze at last year's World Championships where only a highly controversial box-off decision against an Egyptian opponent denied O'Reilly early Olympic qualification.

Read more: O’Reilly storm shines an awkward light

A member of the Travelling Community, the Clonmel-born 22-year-old is coached in Portlaoise by IABA president Pat Ryan.

Yet his relationship with the governing body has not always been harmonious and O'Reilly successfully went to the High Court in August of 2011, challenging a decision to drop him from the European Youths Championship team because of an alleged incident of indiscipline.

It was claimed that he had left a training camp to have his car repaired after it was damaged when he allowed a younger boxer drive it in a car park.

Claiming he had been unfairly excluded, O'Reilly secured two injunctions preventing the Central Council of the IABA from confirming the decision to drop him. It was claimed in court that such a decision would jeopardise his annual €5,000 grant from the Irish Sports Council.

He was in trouble again last April, when sent home from a European Olympic qualifying tournament in Samsun, Turkey after another allegation of indiscipline.

If sent home from Rio, O'Reilly faces the ignominy of becoming the first Irish athlete to be banished from an Olympiad. Should he request the testing of his 'B' sample, the process would be completed within the next 48 hours.

Irish Independent

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