Irish team ready to take on the World after Katie Taylor glory says Zaur Antia
THE afterglow of Katie Taylor’s momentous Madison Square Garden triumph has inspired the latest crop of Irishwomen going for world glory, according to head coach Zaur Antia.
The action got under way in Istanbul yesterday, with minimumweight Shannon Sweeney the only Irish boxer in action today, taking on Argentina’s Florencia Aldana Lopez in the evening session in the Turkish capital.
Belfast pair Michaela Walsh and Carly McNaul step between the ropes tomorrow, with Tokyo Olympian Walsh going toe-to-toe with the USA’s Billy Walsh-trained Amelia Moore in the featherweight round of 32, while flyweight McNaul takes on Burundi’s Ornella Havyarimana.
Immaculata light-fly Caitlin Fryers makes her World Championship bow against South Africa’s Thandolwethu T Mathiba in Thursday’s afternoon session.
Fresh from a 10-day training camp in north Italy, the Irish team come into the championships in good spirits – with Antia insisting Taylor’s breathtaking victory over Amanda Serrano had provided a spring in the step heading to Turkey.
“She is a huge inspiration for all the girls here,” said the Georgian, “you should see how happy everybody was, they were so proud of her. Katie motivated them a lot.
“It was an excellent fight, and it showed how strong female boxing is. The way she dealt with very difficult moments under pressure, that showed the level of female boxing. It was fantastic and a big moment for boxing – not only for Ireland, but all over the world.
“Katie performed very well, there were some difficult moments, but she won the fight. If she decides to fight Serrano again, she will beat her again. Katie is a little faster, and a little more skills. You could see her big amateur past.
She used all her experience, she just needs a little better tactical plan. Katie has incredible spirit as well, you saw that. You cannot coach that.”
Going to the World Championships is a huge step up in class for many of those on a relatively inexperienced Irish team, who saw injury rule out Olympic champion Kellie Harrington on the eve of the competition.
For Antia and his coaching team, which includes John Conlan and Eoin Pluck, the emphasis is on performance rather than podium places – and the likes of Fryers, who missed out on selection for the Commonwealth Games, has already shown signs of promise.
“Caitlin had great spars – every spar she improved, she got better all the time.
“She listens very well and implements the advice of coaches, so we are very happy and very positive about her. The whole team had a great sparring camp in Italy, the quality was high because there was an Italian team, USA, Brazil, lots of Olympic medals.
“Yes, this is a step up, it is a big competition - a first World Championships for some - but they have shown that they can compete here. It will be a great experience for them, and that is really important.
“We know their capacity, and all we want is performance - for them to control themselves and deal with the pressure that is always there at this competition. But performance is more important than winning things.
“Winning, medals, those are separate things. Everybody is happy, everybody is ready.”
Also in action in the coming days, Tokyo Olympian Aoife O’Rourke opens her account in tomorrow’s afternoon session against Naomi Melissa Graham of the USA.
Bantamweight Niamh Fay received a bye and meets Modestine Munga Zalia of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Thursday’s afternoon session, with Dublin welter Kaci Rock in action that evening against Lithuania’s Austeja Auciute that evening.
48kg round of 32: S Sweeney v F Aldana Lopez (Argentina)
57kg round of 32: M Walsh v A Moore (USA)
52kg round of 32: C McNaul v I Havyarimana (Burundi)
75kg round of 32: A O’Rourke v N Graham (USA)
54kg round of 32: N Fay v M Munga Zalia (Democratic Republic of Congo)
50kg round of 32: C Fryers v T Mathiba (South Africa)
66kg round of 32: K Rock v A Auciute (Lithuania)
YOUNG TALENTS TARGET SUCCESS AT EUROPEAN ELITES
SOME of Ireland’s top emerging talents will have the chance to showcase their skills on the big stage after a youthful squad was selected for the European Championships, which get under way in Armenia later this month (May 21-31).
Ulster trio Dylan Eagleson, JP Hale and Eugene McKeever have all been selected – with 18-year-old Eagleson, yet to have a competitive bout as an elite boxer, being thrown in at the deep end after impressing Irish coaches in recent months.
The Bangor teenager was too young to enter the Ulster elites last December but has since secured a place at the Commonwealth Games, landed bronze at the European U22s and been picked for the elite equivalent.
For reigning Irish elite champions Hale and McKeever - both of whom are also on the Commonwealth Games team - it is another move forward on their international journey, as they stepped up to compete at last October’s World Elite Championships.
Also included on the team bound for Yerevan are European U22 gold medallist Jack Marley and silver medallist Adam Hession, as well as recent Golden Belt gold medallist Brandon McCarthy and bronze medallists Ricky Nesbitt and Gabriel Dossen.
“[USA coach] Billy Walsh brought male and female teams to the training camp in Italy last week, and some of our young boxers had great spars with them,” said Irish head coach Zaur Antia, who will be joined by Ulster coach Damian Kennedy and Dmitri Dmitruk in Armenia.
“From the first spar to the second or third, you could see the really big change they already made. They are a young team, but some already have experience of the European U22s.
“This will be an excellent experience for them as well - not just experience. I feel that they have a great opportunity as well to go far.”
Meanwhile , a County Antrim team will be travelling to Paris later this week to compete at the Montana Belts tournament (May 11-15).
Included are Nicole Meli (54kg, Immaculata), Jack O'Neill (57kg, Corpus Christi), Jack McGivern (64kg, St George's), Ben Ferran (67kg, Clonard), John Boyd (71kg, Gleann), Lex Weston (75kg, Emerald), alongside coaches Danny Boyd and Peter Graham, and referee and judge Seamus Kelly.
48kg: Ricky Nesbitt (Holy Family, Drogheda); 51kg: Sean Mari (Monkstown, Dublin); 54kg: Dylan Eagleson, (St Paul’s); 57kg: Adam Hession (Monivea); 60kg: JP Hale (Star); 63.5kg: Brandon McCarthy (St Michael’s, Athy); 67kg: Eugene McKeever (Holy Family, Drogheda); 71kg: Luke Maguire (Esker); 75kg: Gabriel Dossen (Olympic); 92kg: Jack Marley (Monkstown, Dublin)