Walsh and Taylor share prestigious award
In one of the most highly contested years for the Philips Sports Manager of the Year award, four Olympic medals sealed the deal for boxing. Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan earned Billy Walsh and Pete Taylor the joint prize for their stunning return from London 2012.
Walsh could look around the room in the Shelbourne Hotel yesterday at a Heineken Cup-winning nominee from Leinster, a dual-Derby winner in Aidan O’Brien, All-Ireland Championship winners and European Championship manager Ann Keenan Buckley, who took the Irish cross country team last year to win the coveted European prize and feel the heat of the competition.
But it was boxing’s night and while no figures were given as to how the judges score cards fell, four Olympic medals seemed weighty enough for Walsh and Taylor to walk off with the trophy.
Only the fourth time a sport has broken the 30-year run monopolised by the big three sports of soccer, GAA and rugby, boxing joined amateur golf (Brendan Edwards 1983), Grand Prix racing (Eddie Jordan 1994) and horseracing (John Oxx, Sindaar’s trainer 2000) as outliers of quality.
Walsh, who picked up the prize for both trainers, was not about to rest on the memories of a sweet two weeks work in the ExCel Arena. “That’s finished,” he said almost dismissively. The Head Coach to the boxing team is content that his contract has been ironed out along with that of assistant, Georgian coach Zaur Antia.
That of Katie’s father Pete still has to be tied down. He has been away in Armenia recently with his daughter where she received her third successive Female Boxer of the Year award.
“You come to these wards at the end of the year, you don’t work for these awards,” said a satisfied Walsh. “The key thing that stuck in my mind when Des Cahill was reading out the former winners was there’s no boxing there. It’s great for boxing the recognition we’re are getting.”
But Walsh was in no mood to pacify. The sport has always had to go the extra mile to get what it has got. “It does take money. Look at the Brits and what they have achieved not just boxing but cycling, swimming,” said Walsh. “We’re in the ha’penny place. We need centres of excellence. We don’t have the structures in place.
“It will take some money but we are very, very cost effective. We need a Greenfield site. It wouldn’t cost much. We want the best nations to come here. They want to come here but I’m embarrassed to bring them to Ireland.”
Walsh, however, pointed out that to continue to move forward, Irish boxing must further improve. Going into Beijing there were three qualifying tournaments to book a place. For London there were two qualifiers and for Rio they are talking about maybe just one qualifier, which means narrow margins and less opportunities for the Irish team.
“We know we have a massive challenge coming to Rio,” he said. “London was home. Rio has many, many more obstacles for us but we have the guts of a great team and some good talent coming behind.”
“The hardest part for us has been qualification. Forty three countries, eight places in most weight divisions. That’s the difficulty for us,” said Walsh before leaving two words hanging “Joe Ward . . .”
“He beat the four guys that won the medals, (including) the gold medal. He hammered them in April and he didn’t get to the Olympics,” added Walsh. “We’ll be focused on going to the Worlds and Europeans next year, trying to medal.”
Manager of the Year Monthly award winners
Ann Keenan Buckley (Irish Athletics Cross Country team)
Brian McLaughlin (Coach of the Ulster team that made the Heineken Cup final)
Anthony Cunningham (Galway senior and under 21 hurling teams and Garrycastle football team)
PJ O’Mullan (Loughgiel Shamrocks, All-Ireland club hurling champions)
Conor Counihan (Cork football manager)
Joe Schmidt (Coach of European Cup winners Leinster)
Aidan O’Brien (Trainer of Camelot, winner of the Epsom Derby)
Anthony Cunningham (Galway hurling manager)
Billy Walsh and Pete Taylor (Irish Olympic boxing team coaches)
Brian Cody and Jim McGuinness (Kilkenny hurling and Donegal football managers)
Ian Baraclough (Manager of Sligo Rovers FC)
Michael Bannon (Coach to golf major winner Rory McIlroy)