Katie Taylor’s finger prints are all over Ireland’s recent Olympic Qualifying success suggests Irish amateur boxing legend Paddy Barnes.
Lightweight Kellie Harrington, featherweight Michaela Walsh and middleweight Aoife O’Rourke all secured places on the plane to Tokyo in the European Qualifiers this week – and did so in the kind of fashion that suggests they are genuine medal hopes.
The three-time Olympian and two-time Olympic medal winner wasn’t surprised by the success, or to see the Irish female fighters perform so well in Paris.
Indeed, the popular Belast retired fighter is predicting prolonged female fight success for Ireland as a Katie Taylor inspired generation emerge eager to do well and with a pathway to achieve laid out.
“It is absolutely unbelievable,” Barnes told the BBC.
“Someone asked me last year about the Olympics and I said female boxing would be at the forefront for the Irish team and it has happened. Aiofe O’Rourke, Michaela Walsh and Kellie Harrington are all flying the flag.
🇯🇵 QUALIFIED 🇯🇵— IABA (@IABABOXING) June 6, 2021
She's there! @michaelaw57 shows her class throughout and she takes the win by unanimous decision v 🇸🇪!
She has now confirmed her place at @Tokyo2020 !!!!
CONGRATS MICHAELA! 👏🇮🇪🥊#IABA #TeamIreland #RoadToTokyo pic.twitter.com/oGW7XuIF1q
“Even before I left the amateur set-up there were more and more girls being part of the high performance and more and more girls getting more opportunities at foreign competitions.
“It has funnelled right down and we have got some cracking female youth fighters coming through as well, and they will be ones to watch. They are getting more and more opportunities, and it is only going to get better from here on in.”
“That legacy of Katie Taylor will always be there, and not just for Irish boxing,” he continued.
“Katie Taylor has actually done it for world boxing. It just shows you, though, for girls that barriers being broken down by Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington, it is there for anyone.
“There is nothing to worry about in participating in female boxing – you can go out and achieve greatness just like your male counterparts.”
Brendan Irvine, Emmet Brennan, Aidan Walsh and Kurt Walker make up the rest of the team – and Barnes has a simple message for them all: “This tournament only comes round once every four years and you have to be on your game. Statistically, you only get one crack at it, especially if you are a boxer.
“So go out there and give it your all, but I would stress ‘go out and enjoy it’ more than anything. Perform your best, train your best but more importantly go and enjoy it.”