A delighted Jack Marley says he was happy to chase down his Olympic dream.
The 20-year-old became Ireland’s first heavyweight Olympian since Cathal O’Grady, who competed in 1996, when he beat European Championships silver medal winner Enmanual Reyes Pla in Poland on Friday.
The Monkstown boxer, who has come of age in this European Games installment, had to come from behind to both secure his place in the final and his ticket to Paris.
Going behind in such an important fight against a quality foe is usually a daunting prospect, particularly for one so young.
However, Marley said he wasn’t overly concerned going into the final two sessions having reversed deficits in previous fights.
“I enjoyed that right to the final minute, I was smiling the whole way through it. The first round I came out strong because I knew he’d tire, but I ended up losing the first round,” Marley said after before pointing out he had to draw the Spaniard into a fight.
“That’s all right though, I think our other two fights I lost the first round too, but I don’t mind that. I had to go chasing it but it was worth it. He’s a very technical boxer, so I knew if I let him get a distance and get his running going, that was two minutes gone. So I knew I had to go out straight away, I couldn’t let him get his tempo. I’m absolutely speechless.”
Marley also had to deal with going the extra mile to reach Paris 2024. While a semi-final spot was enough to qualify the likes of Kellie Harrington, Michaela Walsh and Dean Clancy, the Sallynoggin heavy, like Aoife O’Rourke had to reach the decider.
Ireland’s first major international heavyweight medalist in 1976 admits it played on his mind somewhat.
“I can’t believe it, it was a big mental strain today, everything was going through the head,” he adds. “Unlike everyone else I had to get the bronze first, then qualify, it was just another obstacle in my head that I had to get past, it was tough but we’re here now and I can’t believe it.”