‘This is me in the Olympic Village now’ – comeback kid Walsh never gave up the Tokyo dream

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Even after nightmare defeat Aidan Walsh never gave up on his Olympic Dream.

Toyko looked as far away and as fanciful a destination as Timbuktu when the Belfast fighter lost to fancied young prospect Paddy Donovan in February’s National Elite Championships installment.

Olympic hopes then seemed to go from slim to none when Donovan, who is now a pro signed to Top Rank and coached by Andy Lee, lost in the final to another young talented Keiran Molloy.

At that stage Walsh, whose sister, Michaela has been excelling on the world stage, looked to be third choice with regard to International and thus Olympic qualifier selection.

However, while that was the outside perception, the Monkstown fighter thought very much different.

The Commonwealth Games sliver medal winner wasn’t giving up on the dream and faced with adversity upped his game rather than folded.

Fast forward just nine months and the Belfast fighter was chosen ahead of Molloy to represent Ireland in the World Championships and was last Friday crowned Irish welterweight champion having accounted for reigning champ, Molloy along the way.

It’s a massive turn around and one that isn’t lost on the best in Ireland at 69kg.

“It’s unbelievable. I’m lost for words a wee bit, it just means so much to me. It’s hard, like…” said the 23-year-old after he defeated Cork’s Callum Walsh in last Friday’s final.

“Anybody who knows me will know, compared to where I was, what I went through behind the scenes… it’s all worth it now.

“I busted my balls. When I was beat, I still went down to Dublin every week – from the week after the Donovan fight I’ve been in Dublin every week, up to the World Championships.

“I went to all the tournaments I was meant to go on, absolutely everything, and without the support of my family and my sponsors, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Walsh, who excited the World Championships at the gloves of old rival Pat McCormack, now appears to be in Olympic qualifier pole.

He is adamant he will not only be sent to London for Ireland in March, but will qualify and will wear the Irish crest in Tokyo this Summer.

“My dream is the Olympic Games and nothing will stop me getting to the Olympic Games,” he said.

“I said this even when Donovan beat me, that nothing would stop me going to the Olympics, and it won’t. It honestly won’t.

“That’s not being over-confident or big-headed, I’m just so grateful to the people around me who helped me to be here.

“This is only a stepping stone – obviously I want to come back and retain this next year but, for now, it’s the Olympic Games. That’s my main focus. In my mind, I’m already at the Olympic Games.

“Every day I’m at the Olympic Games – this is me in the Olympic Village now! That’s the way you have to think, this is the way your mind has to be. You don’t want it, you have it.”

dpg

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com