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Busy weekend for Ireland's Elite boxers at Celtic Box Cup in Dungarvan
by Michael O'Neill
September 22, 2015
Dervla Duffy: (photo IABA.ie)


(SEPT 22) A busy weekend ahead for many of Ireland’s Elite boxers as the 2015 edition of the CELTIC BOX CUP gets underway Friday at the Sports Centre in the West Waterford seaside town of Dungarvan.

Some 255 boxers from not only Ireland but also neighbours England, Scotland and Wales will join international stars from many countries including Poland, Portugal even Australia and United Arab Emirates (Dubai).

Current Irish Elite champions Dervla Duffy, Kelly Harrington and Clare Grace have entered this year as have many top male stars including National champions Dean Gardiner and Myles Casey.

Five-time Irish Elite champion Eric Donovan, a European Elite medallist, is another to appear , along with 2015 Elite finalists Joanne Lambe, the 2014 Elite champion, Matthew Tinker, and AIBA World Youth silver medallist Christina Desmond.

Desmond and Grace, a European Elite bronze medallist who is ranked No. 8 in the world by AIBA, could renew acquaintances in the middleweight final. Both women clashed last January in the Elite welterweight decider at the National Stadium in Dublin, with Grace edging a split decision. Desmond will be keen to reverse that decision this weekend.

The duo have since moved up to the middleweight class which one of the only three Olympic weight classes for women yet again in Rio 2016.

The Celtic Box Cup was founded in 2013. Since then it has grown to be one of Ireland’s leading boxing tournaments. The Dungarvan club itself was founded by Gerry O’Mahony, former Irish boxing team manager and Munster Council President and of course among its members was the late great Peter Crotty. In fact Crotty started his career at St Mary’s BC Clonmel at a time when there was no club in Dungarvan.

Nicknamed the “Iron Man of Dungarvan”, Peter Crotty was the first boxer to win four Irish Welterweight Championships in a row between 1949 and 1952,and eight in all. He represented Ireland at the Olympics in Helsinki, Finland in 1952 and was later chosen to represent Europe against the mighty United States team in the “Golden Gloves” tournament in Chicago. He also represented his country more than 80 times.

Among those who will not be in Dungarvan this weekend are Ceire Smith and Katie Taylor. The Bray woman, together with Smith, has joined up with the Irish Elite Male World Championships squad for a training camp in Assisi, Italy

with coaches Billy Walsh, Zuar Antia and Eddie Bolger. The men’s team are preparing for the 2015 AIBA World’s in Doha some 12 days hence.

Joe Ward, Michael O’Reilly, Adam Nolan, Dean Walsh, Sean McComb, Michael Conlan and Brendan Irvine will represent Ireland at the 18th edition of the Championships which are doubling up as a qualifier for Rio 2016.

“We’ll train with Italy and Belarus in Assisi and the World Championships team will leave for Doha from Italy on October 2nd, “ said Billy Walsh, who will be Irish head coach in Assisi and Doha.

Walsh’s own future remains uncertain with talks understood to be ‘ongoing’ with his employers IABA together no doubt with input from Sport Ireland/Irish Sports Council and others keen that one of the world’s leading coaches remains at the helm of Irish boxing and not accept the excellent offer he is believed to have received from USA Boxing to take charge of their women’s squad. USA Boxing understandably remains silent on the subject.

One major problem which in the writer’s opinion needs to be resolved – and with some urgency – is overall control of ALL Irish boxing including the women’s team, Youth and Juniors. One simply cannot have two different teams in charge and overall control MUST go to Walsh and his HPU team if Irish women are to continue to excel in Olympic and World Championships especially when Katie Taylor retires. There must be closer co-operation between the men’s and women’s squads.

Billy Walsh (or a successor if he leaves) MUST have overall control and anything less will in effect mean the present two tier system continuing, albeit few agree publically that there is a 2 tier system.

Young boxers have already been lost to the sport due to this and such as Sport Ireland MUST insist that it is not to continue if they are to continue to fund the sport as they do now.

That it has done for so long is yet another reason why major changes in the overall control of Irish boxing need to be implemented as a matter of urgency, and before next month’s IABA Congress in Ennis. The country needs to have a proper structure in place that allows up and coming stars like Amy Broadhurst, Ciara Ginty, and more urgently Michaela Walsh, Clare Grace, Christina Desmond and a few others to be seconded to the HPU squad and regularly travelling to training camps like that in Assisi.

The ‘Old Men’ of the IABA have served their country well but with some in their 70’s and 80’s unless Irish boxing ‘rings in the changes’ and very soon, the country now a powerhouse in AIBA boxing thanks to such as Walsh, Antia, Peter Taylor and others will soon be left behind in the ‘new’ world of AIBA, and those who believe that success is guaranteed are simply burying their heads in the sand.

Politics of any sort must NOT be allowed to potentially damage the career prospects of some of the new potential stars of Irish women’s boxing as they have done in the recent past.

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