Heavyweight Hope – Dean Gardiner replacement revealed as Ireland confirm squad for the Olympic qualifiers.

Ireland will have super heavyweight representation at the Olympic qualfiers which glove off in Paris later this Friday.

There were concerns only eight fighters would be sent to the re scheduled tournament despite the fact Ireland were eligible to send 10.

The retirement of Dean Gardiner and middleweight Michael Nevin’s decision to turn pro looked to cost Ireland a shot at two Olympic slots.

However, the IABA have taken the keys to an IOC backdoor and will send a replacement for ‘Breakfast’ in the 91kg class.

Gytis Lisinskas has benefited and is now just two wins away from becoming an Olympian. The Galway big man looked the most likely considering he was chosen by Bernard Dunne to go to the Strandja Memorial earlier this year.

When Gardiner surprised everyone by announcing his retirement in January, it looked like the London qualifier was a write-off and that any replacement would have to enter the final World shoot-out in Paris. It then seemed that Ireland had no hope of getting anyone at the biggest weight to Tokyo when that Paris World qualifier was cancelled.

At the time it was understood that no country could change their squad for the rescheduled European Olympic qualifiers. Those chosen for the continental qualifying tournament, which was cancelled on Day 3 of proceedings last year, would have to be sent whenever delayed proceedings resumed.

However, it turns out that is not the case entirely. The IOC Boxing Task Force put in place an Athlete Replacement Policy, which did allow for teams to be changed in very specific circumstances.

If a fighter hadn’t competed on any of the three days of London qualifiers last March – and they are injured or retired – they could have been replaced for the resumed qualifier which is due to restart in Paris on June 4th.

Considering Clonmel BC’s ‘Breakfast’ didn’t get the opportunity to compete in London last year and he has voluntarily retired, it would mean that he was eligible to be swapped out last month.

However, it wasn’t know until today if the IABA had taken advantage of the loophole.

A replacement at middleweight won’t be sent, most likely the High Performance found about Nevin’s move across the boxing divide too late.

Brendan Irvine is already qualified for the games but will travel nonetheless and look to get rounds and wins under his belt.

Kelly Harrington, Michaela Walsh, Aidan Walsh, Aoife O’Rourke, George Bates, Emmet Brennan and Kirill Afanasev make up the squad.

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com