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Zaur Antia heralds ‘wonderful’ Olympic team

High Performance Head Coach, Zaur Antia is confident he has picked a ‘wonderful’ team for the first of two Olympic qualifiers.

An eight-strong team to contest the tournament was confirmed on Monday and will attempt to secure Paris 2024 slots in Paris Busto Arsizio, Italy over late February and early March.

There were reports suggesting assessments only took place at light middleweight but no doubt there were difficult decisions to be made across the weights.

The male featherweight class, where Jude Gallagher got the nod and the women’s welterweight weight class, where Grainne Walsh was chosen, were particularly talent-packed, while there was a massive selection headache at male light middleweight were it was choice between Olympic medal winner Aidan Walsh, reigning National Elite champion Dean Walsh and international Eugene McKeever.

As ever the selection has prompted debate and in some quarters ire but speaking upon confirming the team, highly respected coach, Antia was more than content.

“This is a wonderful team,” he said. “Their preparations have been excellent, and they are very focused. It is a great honour, and a remarkable achievement, to box for Ireland at this level, in the hope of becoming an Olympian.

“I congratulate each and every one of the boxers, and their clubs, club coaches and families.”

High Performance Director, Tricia Heberle, says the eight chosen to attempt to join Kellie Harrington, Michaela Walsh, Jack Marley, Aoife O’Rourke and Dean Clancy on the plane to Paris have more than earned their selection and revealed Ireland are well on course to reach their qualification target.

“After a testing 6-month evaluation process these 8 athletes have thoroughly earned selection for the first World Olympic Qualifying tournament. Their commitment to training and self-improvement has been strongly led by Head Coach Zauri Antia and ably supported by Damian Kennedy. The contribution of Club coaches also needs to be recognized, as does the vital role that coaches from the Paris Pool Coach programme have played. Without these coaches working cooperatively for the betterment of their athletes, we would not feel as well-prepared heading into such an important Olympic qualifier event.

“We have set a target of 8 qualifications for the Paris Olympic Games and with 5 of these already achieved at the 2023 European Games, we are on-track and may well qualify a bigger team. It is not an easy task but key to achieving this is the world-class daily training environment at the Sport Ireland Institute that we are so fortunate to have. The IABA High Performance Unit is the envy of many countries and without the continued support of Sport Ireland and the Institute if would be difficult to prepare the athletes to the level required for international success.”


Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years