Boxing

Walsh or no Walsh, Ireland will be among medals says McComb

Holy Trinity lightweight Seán McComb
Neil Loughran

IRELAND will bring home a record haul of medals from next summer’s Olympic Games – whether Billy Walsh is in their corner or not.

That is the opinion of Holy Trinity lightweight Seán McComb, who is hoping to book his place in Rio de Janeiro via the World Championships in Doha, which get under way next week. Intense speculation has surrounded Walsh’s future after it was revealed earlier this month that he was close to agreeing a deal to coach the American women’s team.

The matter has yet to be resolved, with the High Performance chief and the Irish Amateur Boxing Association [IABA] still in discussions about his future. Regardless of the outcome, Ireland are set for big things next summer, according to European Games bronze medallist McComb.

“No matter what, we’ll have a successful Olympic team. That’s a fact,” said the 23-year-old.

“Whether Billy goes or not, Irish boxers will do well at the Olympic Games. Billy knows we will, that’s why I think he’ll stay and be part of the success, but if he does decide to leave it could be a big mistake because he could add a lot more Olympic medals to his CV.

“There’s people here who last year wouldn’t even have been thinking about qualifying for the Olympics who could now not just qualify, but go there and medal. Even myself, there’s plenty more improvement to come. I’m good enough at the minute to win an Olympic gold medal but I believe I can get even better.

“I honestly believe Paddy [Barnes] and Mick Conlan will go there and become the first Irish boxers since Michael Carruth to win gold medals at the Olympics. If Billy does decide to go, it’s not the end of the world – we’ll continue to be successful as a team.”

By anybody’s reckoning, though, losing your head coach in the year of an Olympics Games would not be ideal preparation. Walsh, alongside Zaur Antia, has overseen unprecedented success since assuming the top coaching role at the IABA, and is highly regarded both inside and outside Ireland, having previously resisted offers to leave for foreign shores.

Since talk of Walsh’s possible departure came to light, the Wexford man has taken a team to the Feliks Stamm tournament in Poland, last Friday joined the Irish panel’s preparations for the Worlds at their Assisi base in Italy. Within their own bubble, it has been business as usual, says McComb.

“Billy hasn’t left yet. Zaur’s still there, they’re taking training sessions as normal and no-one has seen anything different," he said.

“As well as the hard work he’s put in and the technical work from Zaur [Antia], there’s a lot of talent in the team. Billy’s still there and, as far as we’re concerned, for now he’s going nowhere.

“There’s no point worrying about what might happen in the future.”

When asked about Walsh’s situation, 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Conlan said he had “no comment to make”, while light-fly hopeful Brendan Irvine insisted the coach had not discussed the matter with the squad.

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