Sport

Jude Gallagher keeps Olympic dream alive with winning start at World qualifier

Jude Gallagher will step between the ropes for the first time since June when he faces friend Dylan Eagleson in a mouth-watering Irish elite semi-final. Picture by PA
Jude Gallagher got off to a winning start at the first World qualifier in Italy on Monday night. Picture by PA
Boxing: World Olympic qualifier

JUDE Gallagher has hit the ground running in Italy after victory in his first outing at the first World Olympic qualifier on Monday night, keeping his dream of making it to Paris 2024 alive.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist lost out to eventual champion Javier Ibanez Diaz in his first fight at the European qualifier last summer, but looked in rude health on the way to claiming the Irish featherweight crowd in a stacked division.

And Gallagher has picked up where he left off in October, sweeping to a unanimous decision winner over Algerian Hichem Maouche in the evening session at the E-Work Arena in Busto Arsizio as Ireland’s strong start to the qualifier continue.

The Newstownstewart man advances to the last 32, where India’s Husam Mohammed – who will have former Irish High Performance director Bernard Dunne in his corner – lies in wait on Friday.

Earlier in the day, Kelyn Cassidy advanced to a last 32 meeting with Guatemala’s Wyatt Trujillo on Friday morning after comfortably seeing off Michail Tsamalidis.

The Waterford light-heavy, who beat good friend Gabriel Dossen to claim the 80kg Irish title back in October, showed little sign of nerves when he stepped between the ropes in Busto Arsizio.

Although the Greek was an awkward opponent, Cassidy controlled the bout to advance. He will be determined to seal his spot in Paris having come so close at last summer’s European Olympic qualifier in Paris.

Cassidy almost got the better of serial medalist Oleksandr Khyzhniak, the Ukrainian eventually across the line in the final round of a blood and thunder contest.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for Jennifer Lehane, as she fell at the first hurdle against Romane Moulai.

The first two rounds were shared, leaving it all on the last – with Frenchwoman Moulai nicking the third to advance.

Having also fallen short at last summer’s European Olympic qualifier in Poland, Lehane will be hoping to earn one last crack when the Irish team is picked for the second World qualifier in Thailand (May 23-June 3).

Aidan Walsh is the only Irish boxer in action on Tuesday, the Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist making his long-awaited return to the ring against Husain Alkandari of the UAE in the morning session.

On Wednesday, meanwhile, Martin McDonagh bids to pick up where he left off when facing Turkey’s Yusuf Acik in the afternoon session. The Crumlin super-heavy got Ireland up and running in impressive fashion when beating Ferely Ali Feliz on Sunday.

Offaly light-welter Grainne Walsh was the only Irish boxer to receive a bye when the draw was made, and doesn’t enter the fray until Friday when she takes on Germany’s Stefanie von Berge.

Flyweight Daina Moorehouse also returns to the ring that day, taking on Venezuela’s Tayonis Cedeno having already accounted for Vietnam’s Thi Tam Nguyen.

SCHEDULE

World Olympic qualifier, Busto Arsizio

Tuesday

Round of 64

71kg: A Walsh v H Alkandari (UAE) – morning session

Wednesday

Round of 32

92+kg: M McDonagh v Y Acik (Turkey) – afternoon session

Friday

Round of 32

66kg: G Walsh v S von Berge (Germany) – morning session

80kg: K Cassidy v W Trujillo (Guatemala) – morning session

51kg: D Moorehouse v T Cedeno (Venezuela) – afternoon session

57kg: J Gallagher v H Mohammed (India) – evening session