After leaving the European Youth Championships, the sole qualifier, with six medals but no boxers having finished in the qualification places, it looked as though Ireland would have no representation at the third edition of the tournament which this year takes place in Buenos Aires in Argentina.
However, this afternoon it has been confirmed that middleweight Lauren Kelly of the St Brigid’s Edenderry club in Offaly has received a place at the competition in South America which October 6th to 18th.
Kelly won European bronze earlier this year, captaining the women’s team in Italy. It was her third European bronze medal after recovering from a career-threatening elbow injury.
It is unclear currently how exactly Kelly has secured qualification.
The Youth Olympics are a very compact tournament with just six or seven fighters competing at each weight – women’s middleweight features seven boxers – and with countries being restricted to sending just five boxers (three men, two women).
The qualification breakdown was due to be the 2017 World Champion, the five 2018 Continental champions and either an Argentinian fighter or a wildcard. However, with low entry numbers in some tournaments and some winning nations in others already having qualified boxers at other weights, the whole process has been confused.
Regardless of how she has achieved, it was today confirmed by Irish High Performance Director Bernard Dunne that Kelly is going to Argentina.
The 18-year-old, a seven-time Irish champion, will first fight in the World Youth Championships in Hungary.
Kelly said that “I’m honestly lost for words and so thankful for this opportunity, thank you to [club coach] Liam Morley Brereton for all the endless hours of hard work he has given to me and for continuously believing in me, and thank you to my parents and everyone else for the support.”
Coach Brereton, whose brother Martin represented Ireland at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, said that it was “unbelievable news for this girl who has worked so hard at her sport, from being told by doctors you will never box again to today’s news. ”
“Just an amazing story for our little club.”
Ireland have a strong tradition in the new competition
The inaugural Games in Singapore in 2010 saw current WBA bantamweight champ Ryan Burnett win light flyweight gold while an injured Joe Ward lost in the quarters.
In 2014 in Nanjing, Mayo’s Ciara Ginty won lightweight silver and Donegal’s Michael Gallagher claimed heavyweight bronze while Cork middleweight Christine Desmond finished fourth (unlike other major tournaments only one bronze medal is awarded).