There were no medals up for grabs when Emmet Brennan fought Liridon Nuha in the European Olympic qualifiers, only a golden ticket to Tokyo – which the Irish fighter put in his back pocket – after three hard-fought tense rounds.
Brennan edged a physical, and even dirty, last chance saloon Olympic shootout in Paris to make sure he gets to fulfil his Tokyo dream.
Brennan gave himself two shots at qualification when he beat Uke Smajli of Switzerland in the last 16 and needed a second bite of the cherry after Croat Luka Plantic defeated him in a highly entertaining quarter-final clash.
The Dublin light heavyweight took his second chance but only just when what looked like poor refering seemed to undo a lot of the 30-year-old’s good work.
The Dublin Docklands fighter was docked a point for holding after his opponent had got away with the use of the head, twice hitting after the call of ‘break’ and landing heavy after the final bell.
However, it mattered not come final result time as the Irish fighter made it a magnificent seven boxing Olympians via a 29-27, 28-28, 28-28, 28-28, 28-28 scorecard.
The two come-forward, aggressive fighters meet in the middle early on and the Swede seemed to get the better of those exchanges. Brennan put some distance between the pair in the second half of the round and held up close despite being so comfortable in the pocket in the previous bouts. The Docklands operator enjoyed more success counter punching and took the round on four of the judges score cards. The points difference could have been wider if the ref had have docked the Swede a point for any number of infringements.
The second round was even more physical than the first with Nuha ploughing forward with his head for the most part. It was a stop-start affair that saw Brennan ship some big right hands and land some tasty left hooks of his own, the Irish fighter edging it 3-2.
A point docked for holding in the last round looked to ruin his hopes and had many fearing Brennan would be harshly done by against the roughhousing Nuha. However, he did enough to ensure he will live his Olympic dream and had his hand raised after a nervy wait.
The win sees Brennan join Brendan Irvine, Kurt Walker, Michaela Walsh, Aoife O’Rourke, Kellie Harrington and Aidan Walsh as an Irish boxing Tokyo 2020 Olympian, increasing our boxing representation to seven.
The make up of the Irish Olympic Boxing team is as follows:
52kg Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s, Antrim)
57kg Kurt Walker (Canal BC)
69kg Aidan Walsh (Monkstown, Antrim)
81kg Emmet Brennan (Dublin Docklands)
57kg Michaela Walsh (Monkstown, Antrim)
60kg Kellie Harrington (St Mary’s, Dublin)
75kg Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea, Roscommon)