A six-strong team made the short trip across to London for the thirtieth Olympics, featuring Ireland’s first ever female Olympic boxer.
Katie Taylor, so instrumental in the women’s game being recognised for inclusion, raised the roof at the Excel Arena and stormed to gold.
Given a bye to the quarters, Taylor’s opening bout against Britain’s Natasha Jonas saw the decibel levels hit a record 113.7 in the Arena as she claimed a 26-15 win and a bronze medal. A 17-9 semi final victory of talented Tajik Mavzuna Chorieva set up a final showdown with surly Russian rival Sofiya Ochigava.
A cagey final where Taylor was the aggressor, but hit the canvas in the fourth round, ended 10-8 in favour of the Bray BC superstar who claimed Irish boxing’s first gold in twenty years.
The men didn’t do too badly either.
Precocious Mullingar bantam John Joe Nevin, a 2008 Olympian, was brilliant throughout. An opening round 21-6 win over current European title-chasing Dane Dennis Ceylan set up a Last 16 bout with Kazakh Kanat Abutalipov. Following a 15-10 win here, Nevin faced current WBO featherweight champion Oscar Valdez of Mexico. After a few lairy moments including taking a calculated knee, Nevin emerged 19-13 winner to claim a bronze medal.
This bronze was sensationally upgraded to silver when Nevin outclassed Cuban favourite Lazaro Alvarez 19-14 in the performance of the tournament. The Cavan BC man would finally come a cropper in the gold medal bout, losing to Britain’s Luke Campbell 11-14.
Belfast light flyweight Paddy Barnes would make Irish boxing history in London, becoming the first Irish fighter to win two Olympic boxing medals. A Last 16 win over Cameroon’s Thomas Essomba (15-10) led to a medal bout with Indian Devandro Singh. Barnes duly won this contest 23-18 to set up a showdown with Beijing defeater Zou Shiming. The Holy Family star was brilliant against the Chinese star, but was denied on the narrowest of margins, losing a countback after a 15-15 draw.
A young Belfast flyweight also first came to prominence in the English capital four years ago and Mick Conlan surprised many by claiming bronze. The current AIBA World champion defeated Duke Micah of Ghana 19-8, and Frenchman Nordine Oubaali 22-18 to win bronze. In the semis Conlan was defeated by Cuban talent Robeisy Ramirez 10-20, but now four years later he will be looking for, and is well equipped to exert, revenge in Rio.
Wexford welter Adam Nolan had claimed top prize at the European Olympic Qualifier in Turkey a few months previously, and got off to a winning start in London, defeating Ecuadorian Carlos Sanchez 14-8. The Garda however would be knocked out in the Last 16 by Russian eventual bronze medalist Andrey Zamkovoy 9-18.
Darren O’Neill, competing at middleweight, also won his first bout in London, defeating Nigerian Muideen Akanji 15-8, before losing out to German Stefan Hartel 12-19.