Billy Walsh saga forgotten as boxers focus on Rio

Boxing bygones were let be bygones at the launch of the grand new facility

David Conway, Director of National Sport Campus, John Treacy, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, Pascal Donohoe TD, Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Kieran Mulvey, Chair of Sport Ireland and Gary Keegan, Director of the Irish Institute of Sport at the new High Performance Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

David Conway, Director of National Sport Campus, John Treacy, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, Pascal Donohoe TD, Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Kieran Mulvey, Chair of Sport Ireland and Gary Keegan, Director of the Irish Institute of Sport at the new High Performance Training Centre in Abbotstown. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

A phrase of former US president Ronald Reagan – that peace had broken out – seemed apt yesterday for Sport Ireland and the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA).

As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Pascal Donohue glided around the gleaming €4 million High Performance Training Centre in the Irish Institute of Sport, the hatchet seemed buried, at least for now.

Quite a change in tone from the fury of the pre-Christmas Oireachtas hearing.

Then, Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy had said his confidence in Irish boxing “was shaken”. Now, post-Billy Walsh and the saga of his departure to the US, harmony is the order of the day as Irish athletes point their noses towards Rio.

“You build confidence over time and you look into people’s eyes, and you either see sincerity or not,” said Treacy. “And we see sincerity in what they are saying to us. We will work with them and make sure we support them.

“We have had a number of liaison meetings with them and, like everything else, we’ve all dusted ourselves down and we’ve got on with our business. It’s business as normal with the IABA now.

“Zaur Antia has stepped in and we will be giving him every support, and the Institute will be giving the IABA every support that they can as well over the next number of months. That support is appreciated by them and they will get on with their business. And we will give them 100 per cent support.”

It might be an uneasy peace, but it will be further cemented when, over the coming months, the association moves to the new facility, which when complete will house 180 athletes from various sports across a sprawling 520 acres.

Athletes have a four-lane, 130m indoor track with performance analysis equipment. The boxers will have four training rings and a full-sized competitive ring. This will allow them to host international camps, something they had not been able to do in previous years.

It is a time for looking forward, not back, said Treacy, who also laid to rest plans for an independent review into exactly what happened between the association and Walsh.

Little appetite

Mel Christle

“I think we’ve all moved on now,” said Treacy. “I think we’ve all moved on and dusted ourselves off and got on with it. That’s where we’re at.

“Zaur Antia has been in the system a long period of time. Everyone acknowledges he is a fantastic coach and is very capable of doing a good job, and we will give him every support, from the Institute, from Paul McDermott on the high-performance side. And we will give the IABA 100 per cent support.”

State-of-the-art equipment for all sports is still being installed, alongside physiology and injury rehab suites, where the IRFU’s Dr Rod McLoughlin is Director of Performance Medicine. The GAA has pitches laid, both all-weather and grass. So have the FAI and Irish hockey, so far the only team sport to have qualified for Rio.

Irish Rugby has a presence as well, although bets were being taken on the odds of prising the Irish team from the luxury of Carton House and their bespoke rooms.

How likely will the Institute of Sport will have a bed capable of keeping the feet of 6’10’’ Irish lock Devin Toner from chilling on a February night?

The centre, based on the National Sport Campus, is designed to provide a world-class training and support environment where Irish high-performance athletes, coaches and staff can train, meet and exchange expertise.

“Our mission is to support Irish sports to reach world podiums by ensuring excellence in the high-performance system and delivering world-class services,” said Kieran Mulvey, chairman of Sport Ireland .

More medals?

Keegan set up the High Performance Unit before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was a key figure in the current boxing programme, seen to be the most successful of any Irish sport.

“We started from a very humble space with boxing,” he said. “We had seven bags hanging in that national gym and there was one ring in the centre of the floor, and it was pretty cold and pretty depressing.

“We were going out to world-class environments in Russia and Germany, etc, and seeing what it looked like,” Keegan said. “I could see the impact on the mindset on our boxers coming back into their ordinary space and going into a world-class space. That’s why I think having the facility in some way impacts the belief, the psychology.

“It starts to remove the excuses. That impacts on the belief that we belong there. We’re not going to get higher levels of performance until athletes believe they belong in those spaces.”

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