Irish boxers have 'tunnel vision' despite boxing turmoil insists Damian Kennedy

Jude Gallagher is part of the Irish team who will compete at the Usti nad Labem Grand Prix in the Czech Republic this week. Picture by PA
Jude Gallagher is part of the Irish team who will compete at the Usti nad Labem Grand Prix in the Czech Republic this week. Picture by PA

IRELAND’S top boxers have “total tunnel vision” towards next month’s crucial Olympic qualifier, despite uncertainty sparked by political machinations at the top of the sport.

The European Games, which take place in Poland from June 21-July 2, offers boxers a first opportunity to book their spot at Paris 2024, with a 12-strong Irish team expected to travel to Krakow.

However, despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) insisting the International Boxing Association (IBA) will play no part in that qualification process, the IBA last week issued what they described as the “official list of eligible boxers” for the event.

Hostilities were also heightened following the recent formation of the breakaway World Boxing organisation, established in response to ongoing issues with the IBA.

In what was considered a major power-play to ensure boxers stay under their umbrella, the IBA has since announced plans to increase prize money for gold medallists at men’s World Championships to $1million by 2027.

At this year’s men’s Worlds, which got under way in Tashkent yesterday, gold medallists in each of the 13 weight categories are awarded $200,000, silver $100,000 and bronze $50,000.

While all of that has been rumbling on, the Irish number ones and twos have been working hard at the German Olympic training centre in Kienbaum, where they were part of a camp including the host nation, USA, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic.

From there they headed onto Usti in the Czech Republic to take part in the Usti nad Labem Grand Prix, where the action begins on Thursday and runs until Sunday.

And Irish coach Damian Kennedy insists the Irish boxers have no problem focusing on what is at stake in the important weeks ahead.

“Everything is about preparation until the European Games,” he said.

“The political stuff that’s happening, we have no control over that. We’re just focused on the European Games – it’s total tunnel vision. Everything else outside of that is noise as far as we’re concerned.

“There was talk about how the Europeans wouldn’t be a qualification route, the IBA brought that out, but we’ve always reinforced to them that it was.

“The IOC said this was the only route so it didn’t really annoy them, they put their trust in us that we were guiding them the right way.”

The team submitted to Sport Ireland for ratification for the European Games is expected to be the same as that competing in the Czech Republic this week, with Commonwealth Games gold medallists Michaela Walsh and Jude Gallagher among those in the mix.

And although the likes of Olympic bronze medallist Aidan Walsh may not have made the cut following rigorous behind closed door assessments, Kennedy believes it remains the best method of selection.

“I still feel the assessment process is a healthy process, I still feel it brings out the best in people as well,” said the Toome man, who didn’t wish to comment on anything specific regarding the team nominated to Sport Ireland.

“Unfortunately there’s only one person you can pick, and they’re all very close. They’re all talented lads and girls, so it’s about us making sure we feel we’ve got the best one representing Ireland at the European Games.

“Qualifying 12 is the target. Each and every one of them is fully focused on the Olympic dream. Since they started boxing, it’s always been about the Olympic Games, and everyone wants to get there.

“We’ll see – we’re hopeful we’ll do really well at the European Games.”

And, should any fail to reach the qualification stage, it opens the door for the chasing pack ahead of November’s Irish Elite Championships and future World qualifiers.

“It’s boxing,” said Kennedy, “anything can happen in boxing - even between now and June.

“They all have to be ready, the people trailing behind the nominated boxers, they’re still fully focused as well because they’ve seen it before, where people get injured and you have to step into their shoes.

“They’re all competitive, all pushing each other on.”


51kg: S Mari (Monkstown, Dublin); 57kg: J Gallagher (Two Castles); 63.5kg: D Clancy (Sean McDermott’s); 71kg: D Walsh (St Ibar’s/St Joseph’s); 80kg: K Cassidy (Saviours Crystal); 92kg: J Marley (Monkstown, Dublin); 50kg: D Moorehouse (Enniskerry); 54kg: J Lehane (DCU); 57kg: M Walsh (Emerald); 60kg: K Harrington (St Mary’s); 66kg: A Broadhurst (St Bronagh’s); 75kg: A O’Rourke (Olympic, Galway)

Head coach: Z Antia; Coaches: J Conlan, E Pluck, D Kennedy; R&J: M Scott; Physio: R Tuomey; Physiologist: P Fitzpatrick



IRISH boxers have been involved in a trial for a new artificial intelligence scoring system during a recent training camp in Germany.

The technology was used during a series of test matches featuring boxers from Ireland, Germany, USA, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic.

Danish research and development engineer, Allan Svejstrup Nielsen, has spent the last few years working on the project with his company Jabbr.

DeepStrike measures millions of data points during a fight that it funnels into 50 metrics for each boxer - not only punches thrown, landed, and their quality, but also footwork, balance and stance.

“It’s in the very early stages, and it’s coming out with the same scores as the judges are coming out with, which is a positive,” said Irish coach Damian Kennedy.

“The boxers were very interested in it. I don’t know where it’s ever going to go, it’s a technology that’s still in its infancy, but we’ll see.”


Kronk's Daniel O'Reilly claimed the 50kg Irish junior one title in Dublin at the weekend
Kronk's Daniel O'Reilly claimed the 50kg Irish junior one title in Dublin at the weekend


KRONK’S Daniel O’Reilly was crowned Irish champion at the National Stadium on Saturday.

The teenager claimed the 50kg title at the national boy/girl junior one championships thanks to victory over Zac Vause from the Sacred Heart club in Dublin.

“And the new,” read a post on the Kronk’s Facebook page, “Daniel ‘Iceman’ O'Reilly is the new national champion 2023 after an outstanding performance, to say we are proud and delighted is an understatement.

“We would like to thank everyone that made this happen and sponsored us. Go on the champ.”

Omagh B&G’s Patrick Conway won the 104kg junior one title via a walkover while, in the junior two championships, Lisburn’s Mia Welch came up trumps against Bryansford’s Ciar Mackin to take the 46kg title, with Scott Thompson (Spartans) and Brandon McKelvie (Ledley Hall) winners via walkover at 44kg and 100kg respectively.