Which Irish Boxers will go to the Olympic Qualifiers?

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Qualification for the Tokyo Olympics begins for Irish boxers next month.

The boys and girls in green only have a short trip to make initially, with the European Olympic qualifier taking place in London and then, if unsuccessful, it’s on to Paris for the final World Olympic Qualifier.

Boxing in the European qualifier runs from March 14th to March 24th at the Copper Box Arena, with the World qualifier taking place at the Grand Dôme from May 13th to May 20th.

Countries such as the USA and the UK have already confirmed their teams and an announcement from Bernard Dunne’s High Performance Unit is expected soon before the squad is whisked off to a training camp in Italy.

A source of plenty of controversy, who goes to the qualifiers is determined by a number of factors – with the HPU having the final say.

Performances in the National Elite Senior Championships, training, and in the two recent Multi-Nations will all be a factor but there is certain to be plenty of debate over the next few weeks.

Below Irish-Boxing.com looks at each weight category and predicts who will be on the plane.

 

Women’s Flyweight – 51kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 6
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 5 or 6

Massively experienced Elite champ Céire Smith (Virginia) is top of the pile here and will be hoping to get to that next level internationally following so many disappointments. There will be calls for Commonwealth silver medallist Carly McNaul (Holy Family GG) who improved massively after a decisive Ulster final loss to Smith in 2017 but the Cavan woman surely deserves her spot.

Men’s Flyweight – 52kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 8
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 4 or 5

Maybe the most intriguing weight. Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s) is the big name but has seen the last 18 months ruined by injury. The ‘Wee Rooster’ looked rusty falling to a surprise loss to Botswana earlier this month but is of undoubted quality. The question is now whether Irvine will be ‘ready’ for London and, if not, will he be given a ‘second chance’ in Paris. Meanwhile, National Elite Champion and Best Boxer Jude Gallagher (Two Castles) is chomping at the bit. Will the teenager be given a shot?

Women’s Featherweight – 57kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 6
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 3 or 4

There is no debate here. The decorated Michaela Walsh (Monkstown Antrim) will be going.

Men’s Featherweight – 57kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 8
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 4 or 5
Another weight with no debate. Dean Clancy (Sean McDermott’s) called for a chance after winning the Elite title but EU and European champion, not to mention Ireland’s main male medal hope, Kurt Walker (Canal) is the undoubted man here.

Women’s Lightweight – 60kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 6
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 3 or 4

Amy Broadhurst (Dealgan) had declared her intention to challenge World Champion Kelly Harrington (St Mary’s) for the spot. Winning the Elite title while Harrington recovered from a thumb injury was a good start. However, elimination in the opening round of Strandja by nemesis Mira Potkonen – who then edged Harrington in the final – looks to have decided who will go to London. While it is a shame, considering both would be strong Olympic medal hopefuls, all will rally behind Harrington now as she looks to kick on towards Irish sporting immortality 

Men’s Light Welterweight – 63kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 8
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 4 or 5
With James McGivern (St George’s) no longer on the scene, it’s a straight battle between Wayne Kelly (Portlaoise) and George Bates (St Mary’s). Having beaten Kelly on a 4-1 split in the 2020 Elites and outperforming him in Strandja, Dubliner Bates will be confident of going to London. That said, Kelly, who was chosen for the World Championships last year, will be hopeful of perhaps getting a shot in Paris.

Women’s Welterweight – 69kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 5
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 3 or 4
Having won both Elite championships last year – and with Gráinne Walsh (Sparticus) out injured – there is absolutely no doubt that Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan’s) will be fighting for a berth at the Olympics over the coming months.

Men’s Welterweight – 69kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 6
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 4 or 5

Quite an intriguing weight. Aidan Walsh (Monkstown) will expect to be given the nod having been chosen for the Worlds and defeating reigning champ Kieran Molloy (Oughterard) in the most recent Elites. Molloy, though, remains highly rated and things could get interesting if Walsh doesn’t qualify in London.

Women’s Middleweight – 75kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 4
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 3

European champion Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea) is another definite for the qualifiers.

Men’s Middleweight – 75kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 6
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 4 or 5
Another weight that is sure to cause plenty of debate. Elite champ Jason Harty (Rathkeale) doesn’t look to be in the running, leaving the returning Gabriel Dossen (Olympic Galway) and Euro Games bronze medallist Michael Nevin (Portlaoise) who are back following knee surgery and concussion respectively. Dossen performed the stronger in his multi-nations this month and that may secure him the nod for London but it is a coin-flip of a choice.

Men’s Light Heavyweight – 81kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 6
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 3 or 4
Elite champion Emmet Brennan (Docklands) is adamant that this is his year having won out in one of the most competitive fields nationally. Ulster youngster Kane Tucker (Emerald) is highly rated but has noted that 2024 may be ‘his’ Olympics – although still holds out hope of a trip to the World qualifier.

Men’s Heavyweight – 91kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 4
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 3

Having reclaimed the National Elite title, strong Dubliner Kirill Afanasev (Smithfield) looks to be the only heavyweight horse in town.

Men’s Super Heavyweight – +91kg
London Olympic Qualifier slots – 4
Paris Olympic Qualifier slots – 3

Dean Gardiner (Clonmel) has recently returned from injury and will be hoping to go one better having agonisingly missed out on a spot at the Rio Games. Beyond Breakfast, recent Elites runner-up Antoine Ó Griofa (Celtic Eagles) seems to be the HPU’s preferred alternate.

 

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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: [email protected]