Olympian Brendan Irvine to enter fray in Bulgaria

Brendan Irvine hasn't fought competitively since defeating Hungary's Istvan Szaka in the European Olympic qualifier in March 2020 - a victory which secured his spot at a second consecutive Games. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

ULSTER'S Olympic hopefuls Brendan Irvine and Michaela Walsh will lead the charge for the Irish team at the Strandja International Tournament in Sofia tomorrow, with semi-final places up for grabs at the prestigious multi-nations competition.

St Paul's flyweight Irvine has had to wait patiently for his chance to step between the ropes this week after receiving a bye in the last 16.

The 24-year-old enters the fray today against Kosovo's Bashkim Bajoku, and it will be the Rio Olympian's first competitive bout since securing his place at Tokyo 2020 with an impressive win over Hungary's Istvan Szaka at the European Olympic qualifier last March.

That came on the same evening the qualifier was cancelled, with the Olympics postponed weeks later as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. With five months to go until the rescheduled Games begin in Toyko, the 24-year-old will be keen to see as much action as possible.

The winner of his quarter-final will face either Nodari Darbaidze (Georgia) or Bulgaria's Daniel Asenov on Friday.

Walsh, meanwhile, is out to continue her winning streak by making it three from three this week when she takes on Russia's Karina Tazabekova. The Monkstown feather was a convincing winner against Wildad Bertal on Monday, and produced a controlled performance against Uzbekistan's tough Yodgoroy Miraeva on Tuesday.

Also impressive in her last 16 clash with Castlerea's Aoife O'Rourke, the 2019 European middleweight champion stopping Dobromiro Georgieve in the second round of their contest on Tuesday.

O'Rourke faces Turkey's Sennur Demir in the quarter-final today, and will be full of confidence that she can go on claim a spot in tomorrow's semi-final.

Yesterday, meanwhile, lightweight Kellie Harrington was left perplexed after controversially exiting the competition – despite looking to have got the better of Russia's Nune Asatarian in their last 16 bout.

Having swept past Poland's Aneta Rygielska on Monday, 2018 World champion Harrington went in full of confidence. And after a close first round, the Dubliner boxed beautifully in rounds two and three, negating her opponent's threats time and again with clever counters.

However, the judges thought otherwise and it was Asatarian who had her hand raised on a 4-1 split, with Harrington heard to say “what were you watching?” before leaving the ring.

In the evening session Galway super-heavy Gytis Lisinskis demonstrated potential in his first major international outing, but came up short against India's experienced Manjeet Singh, who got the nod on a 4-0 split.




52kg: B Irvine v B Bejoku (Kosovo)

57kg: M Walsh v K Tazabekova (Russia)

75kg A O'Rourke (Ireland) v S Demir (Turkey)

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