Olympic medals are hard to come by in Ireland. Since 1924 Ireland have only graced 29 podiums.
We set off more metal detectors coming home from London 2012 than any other time in our Olympic sporting history with a record breaking six pieces of precious metal being brought through Dublin Airport.
Of those six medals, four were proudly draped around the next of boxers. Fastforward four years and there was a feeling Ireland with particular thanks to the High Performance Unit among them could have broken the 2012 record.
It would prove a tough ask, but the likes of Katie Taylor, Paddy Barnes, Micheal Conlan, Joe Ward and Micheal O’Reilly are/were fancied to medal at the very least.
That would have been a solid base to build off and with three more Irish fighters targeting success and a whole host of other sporting codes with Irish competitors a record breaking haul looked possible.
However, news today suggests we have lost one of our main medal hopes. The IABA have confirmed an Irish boxer has failed a drug test and, while he has the opportunity to go the ‘B Sample’ test or appeal route, it’s quite possible he could be sent home.
The boxer in question is Micheal O’Reilly, who only this week indicated his intentions to go for gold, and the offence is also rumoured to be recreational rather than performance enhancing.
The 23 year old was hotly tipped to medal and was even backed to be a star of the Games. The Portlaoise BC fighter is often highlighted as one of the more naturally gifted talents among a decorated pool of fighters.
A gold medal winner at the European Games, he was fancied by a host of Irish fight aficionados and Sports Illustrated tipped him for silver.
Losing any fighter to such circumstances is a massive blow for the sport and the country, but to lose a medal hope adds further discontent to the situation.
Even more frustrating is the fact O’Reilly had to battle for his place in Rio after he was robbed in an Olympic box-off against Hossam Hussein Abdin. O’Reilly was also punished by the IABA for a breach of team rules while during the European qualifiers and both he and Dean Walsh were sent home and fined for his their undisclosed indiscretions.
Today’s events will almost certainly ensure the boxers in Rio will have to field questions on the topic going into their opening bouts, but knowing the mental strength of the team and the efforts they have put into that side of the sport it shouldn’t have an adverse effect on individual performance levels.