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Interesting Elite Irish team selected for Strandja tournament

Bernard Dunne and the High Performance team have named an interesting team, as Ireland fight for the first time in over a year at the end of this month.

Ireland’s elite boxers will look to prepare for the resumption of the European Olympic Qualifiers with competitive action in Bulgaria between February 21 and February 28.

The team was initially set to fly to Germany for a training camp on February 1 but have been training up in Belfast over the last two weeks.

They’re expected to head to Bulgaria on Tuesday before competing in the Strandja international tournament – the oldest international amateur boxing competition in Europe.

It marks a welcome return to action for fighters desperate to get competitive rounds in before the European Olympic Qualifiers resume.

Following a training camp in Italy last October, an Irish team had been expected to enter the Alexis Vastine Memorial in Nantes, France.

However, Ireland pulled out of the Cologne Cup for pandemic reasons, meaning Bulgaria becomes important in terms of prep.

The team has yet to be officially confirmed, but believes the following fighters have been selected:

Niamh Early (51kg) Ryston BC
Michaela Walsh (57kg) Monkstown BC
Kellie Harrington (60kg) StMary’s BC
Aoife O’Rourke (75kg) Castlerea BC
Brendan Irvine (52kg) St Pauls BC
Aidan Walsh (69kg) Monkstown BC
Michael Nevin (75g) Portlaoise BC
Emmett Brennan (81kg) Dublin Docklands
Kirill Afanasev (91kg) Smithfield BC
Gytis Lisinskas (91kg+) Celtic Eagles BC

Those who have already exited the European Olympic Qualifiers haven’t been selected.

Kurt Walker and Christina Desmond will have to wait to return, but interestingly it appears as if the High Performance coaches are not looking at any other options at their weight.

Carly McNaul is another not traveling, but Niamh Early does fill a 51kg berth.

The World Junior medal winner has a chance to impress in a division where the slot for the World Olympic Qualifiers seems up for grabs.

It also looks like Gytis Lisinskas is being eyed for the 91kg spot freed up by the retirement of Dean Gardiner, with the Galway youngster being selected for his Irish debut.

Jonny Stapleton contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 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: