In recent years Irish boxing has risen from the shadows, and in a few weeks time a team of six-strong will compete in London at the Olympic Games.
So buoyant in fact is the nation's enthusiasm for Irish boxing, a six-strong team was largely seen as a disappointing reflection of the Irish talent that has been competing in the ring throughout the last couple of years.
Controversially, 18-year-old starlet Joe Ward didn’t qualify as a result of a very impartial decision by the International Amateur Boxing Association while Mayo man and current European light welterweight champion Ray Moylette suffered the disappointment of letting go of his Olympic claim at the last possible moment with a shock defeat at the Elite national championships in January.
Nevertheless, this is a team that will undoubtedly be feared by opponents in London with each member proving themselves to be in with a shot for a medal. Former Kilkenny u21 hurling star Darren O’Neill will compete in the 75kg event while Paddy Barnes, who also won a Bronze medal in the Olympics at Beijing will compete in the 49kg category. Belfast’s Michael Conlan will compete at 52kgs with John Joe Nevin hoping to go one better than his brave performances at the last Olympics and secure a medal for Ireland this time round.
The two remaining members of the Irish squad are coached by the same man, Pete Taylor, and operate out of the high performance centre in Bray. Adam Nolan and Katie Taylor are big medal prospects at 69 kg and 60 kg respectively, with the latter in particular carrying the weight of expectation of an entire nation on her shoulders.
The squad as a whole though is one which should be seriously competitive in every medal bracket in the upcoming games despite the disappointment that it is a relatively small bunch for such a talented and notorious boxing nation. Indeed, many of the world’s top nations are relinquishing the opportunity to put their best fighters against us in sparring for fear that it may counteract their preparation and this certainly shows how far we have come. The high performance system put in place by the IABA is certainly paying dividends. London however, will be its biggest test.
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