Different Storey Back In former Olympic coach Gerry’s Day
By Kevin Byrne, Seconds Out columnist in the Irish Sun every Saturday – Twitter @kevoobyrne
BILLY WALSH is one cog in a six-man backroom team for Team Ireland at the Olympics.
But four-time coach Gerry Storey says it wasn’t like that in his day.
Belfast boxing legend Storey led Irish teams to the Munich, Moscow, Montreal and Los Angeles Games from 1972-1984.
It was a time before a High Performance Unit, funding for fighters, training camps and even expectation.
They still blazed a trail but Hugh Russell in 1980, with bronze, was the only man to make it to the podium.
Holy Family guru Storey – who has guided Paddy Barnes to his second Olympics – said: “Billy has a good back-up team.
“In my day it was just the coach on his own. Now they have physios, psychology, you name it, they have it.
“So Billy has time now to concentrate on his coaching.
“When I was leading teams the boys would train in their own clubs, and it wasn;t only until the 76 Montreal Games that we started team training.
“We went down to Cahirdaniel in Kerry and trained there. We got there for maybe two or three weeks before the Games.
“The help wasn’t there for Munich, Montreal, Moscow. Them kids weren’t getting any help financially, their families were struggling, their mothers and fathers had to support them. The clubs had to run raffles here there and everywhere to raise a few bob.
“Things were very tough that way.
“The nations like Cuba, Russia and Yugoslavia – a big power then – were all State-controlled and that’s what we were up against.
“We were up against the like of the High Performance that we have now.
“They were miles ahead of us. Ireland had always got the class, the fighting heart, the skills – but just for the strength and conditioning and that bit extra, we were lacking. We didn’t have the resources.
“They have it now and we’re getting the results.”
Storey is pushing 80 but he’s still a visible presence on the Irish boxing landscape.
His latest protégé is Barnes, who returns to the Olympic stage as Ireland’s light-flyweight representative in London.
Storey’s pride is obvious when he talks about his ‘hot-headed’ young star, who came to him at the age of 13.
He said: “Paddy’s been ticking over and the gym is 100 per cent behind him. The minute young kids walk in the door we tell them the Olympic dream is what they are going for.
“I’ve had seven Olympians who were just kids coming in through the door like that.
“That’s the biggest bonus of it.
“We had to curtail him because he always his that macho attitude, maybe because he was small and light.
“We had to get him to know he could be as big as any of the rest of them without growing in height. The psychological effect was to learn tactics, to learn that the easy way to beat any opponent in the world is through tactics.
“He has a desire all the time and it’s still there. He has a desire to win and a dedication to keep training. That’s the ball game for him.
“We worked to give him balance and coordination – and the rest seemed to come easy after that.”
And Storey believes the good work being done now must be added to, not taken for granted.
He added: “I’ve always said that sport can change the world. That is a fact.
“Boxing is one of our most successful sports. Look after them. You can never put too much money into sport. You can see the results in boxing – but this has been a long time coming.”