Introducing the Magnificent Seven – Ireland’s Olympic Boxing Team

Ireland managed to qualify seven fighters to the Tokyo Olympics, just one down on the eight that made it to Rio.

The seven hoping to build on Ireland’s 16-medal Olympic boxing haul are:

BRENDAN IRVINE (FLYWEIGHT)

Belfast flyweight Irvine heads to his second Olympics wearing the captain’s armband. The 25-year-old was a Rio bolter and exited early, losing to Uzbekistan’s eventual gold medallist Shakhabidin Zoirov at the Riocentre Complex.

Post Rio the 2015 European Games light fly silver medal winner continued to prove his International credentials by winning bronze and silver medals at flyweight at the 2017 European Championships and 2018 Commonwealth Games, respectively.

Injuries restricted his fight time since but he qualified in style before the pandemic halted the original qualifiers and he has known he was Tokyo bound for over a year now.

KURT WALKER (FEATHERWEIGHT)

While he was beaten in the qualifiers – at a time when he was going through the most stressful of periods outside the ring – Walker got reward for his form over the last three years and qualified via his world ranking.

The Lisburn fighter who has been Olympic earmarked for some time now won 2018 EU Championships and 2019 European Games/Championships gold, Walker arrives in Tokyo with real claims of securing yet another medal. 

Like his captain, the 26-year-old also won silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and bronze at the 2017 Europeans to add to a glittering underage career that saw many position him as the natural successor to Mick Conlan.

MICHAELA WALSH (FEATHERWEIGHT)

Michaela Walsh has been one of Ireland’s most consistent and successful sports stars in recent years.

The Monkstown BC featherweight has been winning medals on the Elite International stage since 2014 when she was operating as a young flyweight.

The two-time Commonwealth Games silver medal winner has also won medals at the EU Championships [gold], the European Championships [bronze] and the European Games [silver].

Walsh goes into the Olympic’s as one of the top at her weight in the world and is seeded at #4.

KELLIE HARRINGTON (LIGHTWEIGHT)

Top seed Kellie Harrington is one of Ireland’s biggest gold medal hopes – not just in boxing but across the board.

Building on her World silver, EU silver, and European bronze, the Dubliner proved herself the best lightweight in the world when winning gold in the 2018 World Championships in New Delhi. She added silver at the European Games a year later – but a thumb injury suffered in the semi-finals in Minsk saw her ruled out for an extended period.

The delay left some wondering what level the Portland Row stylist would return at, but she proved in Paris that she remains one of the top level lightweights in the world, defeating British wonderkid Caroline Dubois by split decision in the final, not long after she defeated another medal hope and reigning world professional champion Maiva Hamadouche of France.

AIDAN WALSH (WELTERWEIGHT)

Not quite a bolter as many had high hopes for Walsh once he was selected.

However, there was a stage in this disrupted Olympic cycle, he was down the 69kg pecking order. Kieran Molloy appeared to hold Olympic pole in an extremely competitive weight going into the 2020 National Elite Championships but had Tokyo travel plans of his own. He took the firsts steps along the road to Tokyo by defeating Molloy and going on to claim victory in the domestic tournament, his first National Elite crown, and started himself on a path to the Far East.

The Commonwealth silver medallist fights in such a fashion that many have plumped for him as their ‘dark horse’ and if the 24-year-old were to medal in Japan alongside older sister Michaela it would be one of the stories of the Games.

AOIFE O’ROURKE (MIDDLEWEIGHT)

O’Rourke may be the youngest member of the squad but she already knows what it takes to win a major tournament.

The Castlerea native, a late starter in the sport, won gold at the 2019 European Championships to add to her 2018 European U22 silver and continues to improve rapidly.

Indeed, her performances in the qualifiers showed an added degree of maturity and fight management as she mixed styles to ensure she reached the Games.

EMMET BRENNAN (LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT)

Dublin light-heavyweight has been labeled ‘the bolter’ but in truth, there is nothing quick or out of the blue about his Olympic success.

Brennan came back to boxing five years ago with a Tokyo goal and has dedicated his life to reaching the Games. The Docklands BC fighter first set his sights on middleweight success, winning the 2017 Elites, but moved up a weight and now fills a void left by one of Ireland’s greatest ever amateurs in Joe Ward.

Always rated by those ‘in the know’ Brennan navigated a domestic field packed with young and hungry talents to secure passage to the Olympic Qualifiers. He was one of the most exciting fighters to watch in London and Paris and the 30-year-old’s honest approach won him a raft of new fans and ultimately a place on the plane to Tokyo.

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