It was a case of guts but no glory for Aoife O’Rourke in Tokyo today.
The emerging Roscommon talent threw everything including the kitchen sink at China’s Li Qian in her Olympic debut but it wasn’t enough to secure her passage to the middleweight quarter-finals.
The Rio medallist, 2018 World Champion and reigning Asian champion proved too experienced for the Olympic first-timer, although she certainly didn’t look a class above.
O’Rourke managed to ruffle the 31-year-old’s feathers and tested the fitness and durability of a fighter who likes to fight like Ireland’s matador Aidan Walsh.
However, the Chinese fighter was able to do enough to earn a unanimous points decision.
There were some arguments Li Qian was holding a lot, particularly in the second round and deserved a point deduction. It may have come in the third but the fact she had a lead allowed her to avoid any up close and personal work in the final stanza.
"I thought it was a brilliant performance" – @ericdonovanbox and @kenegan30 full of praise for Aoife O'Rourke, and raise questions about the refereeing of her bout#Olympics #Tokyo2020 #RTESport— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) July 28, 2021
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O’Rourke didn’t look overawed in her first-ever Olympic round. She ditched her usual in-and-out approach for an all-out aggressive tactic. The 24-year-old looked to put on it on the Chinese opponent, a tactic that is risky against such a fluid counter puncher but one that reaped dividend on occasion. The score’s favoured the reigning Asain champion 3-2 by the round’s end but you got the sense O’Rourke may benefit from forcing Li Qian to fight at the higher pace.
The Irish fighter, who only took up booking at 18, was all action and then some in the second. The Castlerea fighter let leather fly from first to last bell. It wasn’t pretty,bar the odd nicely timed jab, but it appeared ultra-effective. Li Qian was smothered, looked to hold under constant pressure and was close to a point deduction.
However, the Chinese fighter still managed to take the round and went into the last with a lead on three of the cards.
It left O’Rourke with a mountain to climb and three minutes to climb it but there was hope considering how often the #2 seed had been warned for holding – a point deduction was quite possible.
However, the experienced Chinese fighter used the ring well in the final round, picked shots and moved, avoiding the kind of up close and personal encouthers that forced her to clinch as much as she could.
57kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) beat Jose Quiles (Spain) 5-0
81kg Emmet Brennan (Ireland) lost to Dilshod Ruzmetov (Uzbekistan) 0-5
52kg Brendan Irvine (Ireland) lost to Carlo Paalam (Philippines) 1-4
57kg Michaela Walsh (Ireland) lost to Irma Testa (Italy) 0-5
69kg Aidan Walsh (Ireland) beat Albert Menque (Cameroon) 5-0
75kg Aoife O’Rourke (Ireland) v Qian Li (China)
57kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) beat Mirazizbek Mitzakhalilov (Uzbekistan) 4-1
60hk Kellie Harrington (Ireland) v Rebecca Nicoli (Italy) or Esmerelda Falcon (Mexico)
69kg Aidan Walsh (Ireland) v Mervin Clair (Mauritius) or Hussein Eashash (Jordan)
57kg Kurt Walker v Duke Ragan (USA)