Steven Donnelly – I deserve the Olympic break

In the aftermath of the recent World Championships in Doha, Qatar, it has emerged that Ballymena welterweight Steven Donnelly is potentially in line for shock qualification to the Rio Olympics.

While nothing is confirmed, it is understood that if Andrey Zamkovoy outperforms Radzhab Butaev in the Russian National Championships next month it will grant Donnelly qualification for Brazil by virtue of his fourth place finish in this season’s World Series of Boxing.

A reinvigorated man, Donnelly recently took some time out of training to talk to irish-boxing.com about these recent revelations.

The Ulster man spoke of the boost the surprise news has given him, explaining that “when I learned I could make Rio I was excited more than anything, it was the first time in a long while as well.”

“I’d lost heart and wasn’t really training the way I should be – but now I hope it works out as I deserve the break.”

Such is the convoluted qualifying process for Brazil, the 2014 National Senior champion was completely unaware that results in Doha could effect his Olympic chances, with the Ulster man admitting “the qualifying system is confusing, it hadn’t even clicked that I had the slightest chance until you got in contact.”

The charismatic Donnelly then joked that “if it all it works out you will get a mention in Rio next year!”

The potential slice of luck would be long overdue for the 27 year old. Earlier this year his Olympic hopes were seemingly dashed when an administrative error prevented him from travelling to one of his WSB fights – thus leaving him always playing catch-up to an eventual unassailable lead.

Donnelly tells of the frustration he felt in the aftermath, describing how “the visa mix-up made me hate the game for a while. I just lost interest, went on holiday etc – I got lazy suppose.”

Indeed there were flirtations with the pro game, with the All Saints man explaining that “Matthew Macklin was in touch and we talked, he wanted me over to join.”

“I couldn’t go through with it though as I wasn’t training and it was just hard making such a big decision.”

“In future I’ll contact Matt, he’s a good man and I know it would be a good move when I do decide to go pro.”

While the news of a potential Olympic reprieve has motivated Donnelly, he is by no means putting all his eggs in one basket, and knows that there is still qualification spots available through a WSB event in Sofia next May. The Antrim man reasoned that “if I don’t get to Rio this way I’ll be disappointed no doubt.”

“But the Hussars want me back for WSB again so I’ll be down in Dublin after the seniors and we’ll see what happens.”

All eyes are now firmly fixed on the December 4th deadline for confirmation of Olympic spots, and Donnelly is back working hard again to take advantage of any good fortune that may come his way.

It’s certainly been a long time coming.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie