March 2008 – by Mark Doyle
The Irish boxing teams High Performance Director, Gary Keegan, believes that Olympic qualifier John Joe Nevin could win a medal in this summers Games.
Nevin booked his place in Beijing by reaching the final of this weeks qualifying tournament in Pescara, Italy, a final he went on to win, the 18-year-old bantamweight from Mullingar claiming gold with a 17-10 victory over Veaceslav Gojan on Sunday.
Nevins success surprised many but not Keegan, who has long believed that the teenager is capable of great things. It is not as if he was an unknown or anything like that. We have been keeping him under wraps for the past few years because he is still very young but he has always been very much a part of our programme, Keegan is quoted as saying by the Irish Examiner.
We always felt we had a boy who would win a medal for us at the London Olympics in 2012 and look what has happened. This boy could win a medal in Beijing.
Nevins gold in Italy helped the Irish team claim an impressive fifth-placed finish in the tournament. So, while there was huge disappointment that team captain Ken Egan and John Joe Joyce both failed to qualify for the Olympics after being eliminated at the semi-final stages in their respective weight classes, Keegan feels that Pescara has been a great success for Ireland. With 42 nations competing this tournament was equal to a European championships, he pointed out.
We came away from the tournament with a gold medal and two bronze and if that was a European championships it would be a record. To crown it we were the fifth nation on the list at the end of the competition. The performances were overshadowed by the fact that it was an Olympic qualification tournament and, as a result of that, Kenneth Egan and John Joe Joyce, who both won bronze medals, were very disappointed not to qualify. But we have so many positives coming out of this tournament. All along my target for the Olympic Games has been three and, while I firmly believe that is still on I am now beginning to agree with those who have predicted four or even five. David Oliver Joyce was very impressive out here, Johnny Joyce can do it and Roy (Sheahan, who missed the tournament though injury) if he is back, has to be considered and then, of course we have Kenny (Egan) and Darren (Sutherland) who I feel will qualify. But lets not forget that there are still a lot of big fish in that pond out there and it is not going to be easy,” he added. The final Olympic qualifying tournament for European boxers will be held in Athens between April 7 and 14.
The Irish team for that tournament will be decided in a box-off at the National Stadium on March 14/15, with those who failed to qualify in Pescara taking on the losing semi-finalists from this years Senior Championships.