“You feel equal with these other teams” – Dervla Duffy delighted with improving women’s set up


Dervla Duffy has been around the block, and the Monaghan featherweight is well placed to note how the Irish women’s programme is hitting new heights.

The 34 year old is one of the team leaders of the Irish squad currently away in training camp in France ahead of next month’s EU Championships in Italy.

Before flying to France, the women’s team were training alongside the men’s squad that will head to the World Championships next month, at the Institute of Sport in Abbotsown.

The new facilities, Duffy feels, are improving both performance and confidence amongst Ireland’s rapidly improving women’s ranks.

The Doohamlet fighter, now based in Straffan, outlined how “I’ve been here now, on and off, for a few months. I’m not funded so I obviously work. I drive up and down but I don’t stay here.”

“I really think the facilities are amazing compared to the old High Performance over at the Stadium. The strength and conditioning is great, we have more coaching staff, all around better, the food’s here on campus, we’ve got nice rest areas.”

“You feel more like an athlete, I suppose. We’ve been away to Sheffield [GB High Performance] on training camps and seen the other side. It’s nice now, you feel equal with these other teams.”

“You definitely feel a lot sharper when you’re training up here. You’re in the zone, because you’re constantly surrounded by athletes the same as yourself, and we’re all reaching towards one goal.”

Greater contact time with team mates and, especially, the High Performance coaching team is big boost, and Duffy explained that “if you’re just training with your club and going away to fight for your country, even as a team you don’t know each other.”

“You don’t know the coaches even that well. But here, we’re working with the High Performance Coaches every day; they’re going to be in our corner when we go to these major championships.”

“You feel better prepared, you know your body better because you’re doing the same things every day. They’re correcting your mistakes, they know, ‘Okay, this is Dervla getting in now. We know what way she boxes, this he her style.’ Whereas if they’re not used to working with you, it could take them a round before they think, ‘Oh, yeah, actually, she’s a fighter’, or ‘she’s better as a counter-puncher’. Here, they know you before you get in there [to the ring].”

“It’s of big benefit to be here, working with these guys.”

Duffy, whose 57kg weight class has been added to the roster for the 2020 Olympics, also notes that training alongside the men’s team is proving beneficial too.

“They would be sort of new,” she described. “On and off the last year we were mixing with the lads, but we didn’t ever really spar them that much.”

“But now, more recently, yeah, there’s been more of a mix. And it’s better; you gel better as two teams together, and learn more about each other.”

“On bad days, everyone supports each other. That might be cliché, but it’s actually so true. It can lift you up. And you just see even best, like Joe Ward; there’s days when they’re not feeling it as well. It’s motivational here.”

“And you pick up things from the lads! Even just, you could be beside a guy on the bag and watching him, and he could throw a shot that you might never have thought of before or seen, and you just pick it up. So, you pick up so much from working together, and I think it’s very beneficial to be training with the guys. It’s important.”

In Cascia next month Duffy is confident of going one better than her previous EU outing. Back in 2013 in Keszthely the upbeat fighter was edged out in the quarters, on a split, by Frenchwoman Delphine Mancini.

Duffy recalled how “I was at one, in Hungary, and I got just beaten for a medal by France in what I felt was a very unfair decision. Hopefully this year it’ll be different!”

“We’ll be away a long time, it’s good preparation,we’ll get great sparring; these girls who we’ll be preparing with out there will also be going to the EUs, so you get to see where you’re at.”

“It is hard, it’s hard work. By the end of it all, you’re ready for a little holiday! But it’s what you need, the men always do it, and it seems to work for them, so it’s nice that they’re doing it with the women as well.”

Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie