Bernard Dunne: Irish team healthy amid coronavirus fears following London qualifier

Irish high performance director Bernard Dunne asked for the entire Irish boxing team, coaches and support staff to be tested for Covid-19 after returning from London. Picture by INPHO
Neil Loughran

BERNARD Dunne, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association’s high performance director, says the Irish team who attended the Olympic European qualifier in London earlier this month are in good health - amid growing concerns arising from other national organisations.

Six members of teams who attended the event at the Copper Box Arena are said to have contracted coronavirus; two fighters and a coach from Turkey as well as a fighter and two coaches from Croatia.

Upon returning home from London on March 17 after the tournament had been suspended just three days in, Dunne asked for the entire Irish boxing team, coaches and support staff to be tested for Covid-19 but was told that, because of the current volume of testing and lack of symptoms, testing was not available.

And the former World super-bantamweight champion insists the news coming out of Turkey and Croatia has no bearing on the Irish approach to the situation.

“That only broke over the last day or so and we’re already back in the country over a week. We’ve done everything correctly that’s been asked of us and followed the guidelines of our medical team,” he said.

“None of that changes the protocols we had put in place. Everybody went into 14 day self-quarantine, good hand hygiene and general common sense is what we’re looking for from the athletes. Everybody seems to be okay up to this moment in time.

“We check in with the team on a regular basis, we’re in constant communication. We’re dealing with it as best we can; it’s a situation that nobody could have foreseen.

“It’s unprecedented and it needs to be dealt with before anybody can say a thing about sport again.”

The president of the Turkish federation, Eyup Gozgec, criticised the International Olympic Committee’s boxing taskforce for going ahead with the qualifier in the first place, but Dunne refused to go down that line.

“Where we are now is completely different to where we were a week ago,” said the Dubliner.

“It has evolved so rapidly it’s incredible. The decision was made to run the tournament so we went with it.

“It was the right decision [to suspend the event], no doubt.”

And the correct decision too, he says, to postpone the Tokyo Games until next year amid the continuing uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re not going to argue with a decision that’s been made, that we feel is beneficial to everybody - not just our athletes but to the entire world of sport. The right decision has been made and I’m glad they made it as early as they have.

“Athletes need clarity and once you have that, once you know it’s postponed, then you can deal with it. If anybody can deal with this whole situation it’s definitely the boxing team because our guys - between the fall-out from Rio, competitions being added to the calendar at short notice, the potential of boxing becoming excluded from the Games - they’ve become quite a resilient bunch.

“The way we have to look at it now is that it gives us extra time to prepare – it gives us extra time to go from good to great, and from great to the best.”

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