Ireland's top female boxing coach is urging the sports body to include women on its elite training squad, writes Louise Walsh.
Antoinette Faye has criticised the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) for its 'lack of equality' in its High Performance Unit which, she says, has no female coaches on either the staff or its development programme.
Her stance has been backed by some of the longest-serving coaches in the sport, including the vice-president of IABA and the President of the Munster Provincial Boxing Council
The High Performance Unit, in Dublin's Abbotstown, is currently under the direction of former professional world champion boxer Bernard Dunne.
Among noted female boxers under its wing are World and European Champion Katie Taylor and European champion Kellie Harrington.
She claims the all-men unit plans to take over training the junior and youth girls teams and says that this "calls into question the current role of female coaches who have been training, developing and travelling with these teams to date.
"How can these women further their development as coaches when this unit has no female coaches working with them," she asks.
Faye, from Navan, Co Meath, has just returned home from Spain before Christmas, where the senior elite female team she trained with, won two gold medals and one bronze accolade.
She is the only Irish woman to attain the levels of AIBA World Body two star International Boxing Coach and Fully Qualified Boxing Tutor
As an International coach, the female national boxing teams she has worked with have brought home nine gold, 12 silver and 16 bronze medals from seven international competitions in three years.
She decided to highlight the alleged gender disparity after she was overlooked a place on the coach enhancement programme, despite, she says, being more qualified than five of the men selected. No women were appointed to the programme, she adds.
Faye is the only woman in Ireland to achieve a level two-star grade, which she attained from the World Governing Body of Boxing after a week-long exam in Ukraine in 2017.
"I feel that I have to speak out now, especially with plans to take over training of the junior and youth girls teams - all of which are currently being coached by women as part of the wider field of coaches.
"Yes I agree that all our teams should have access to the top class facilities in Abbotstown but our female coaches should not be left behind and, what I'd call marginalized.
"The boxing council who represent the grassroots of the IABA have continually supported women in our sport and pushed for the development of women in all areas within boxing. They are to be congratulated on all that they have helped to achieve in boxing both here at home and abroad.
"Now these teams will only be trained by the seven men selected onto the enhancement programme.
"There will be no women training national boxing teams in Abbotstown. What kind of message is that sending out to our young female boxers and our female members all over Ireland?
"I'm fighting for equality for women in Irish boxing and I'm not afraid to speak out for all the women out there who work day in and out in their own boxing clubs and give their time each week to the sport."
"For the second year running, the sports council has given no funding to the Irish Athletic Boxing Associations' Women in Sport programme. This inequality has to end now."
Vice-president of IABA and President of Connaught Provincial Boxing Council Joe Hennigan says he is fully behind Antionette, saying that he, himself has raised the issue before with the IABA
"There are a lot of ladies boxing at both international and national level and you would always expect that female coaches would go away with them.
"I personally think Antoinette has been hard done by in not getting a role in the performance unit as she is the only female two-star coach in the country.
"I think IABA and the Sports Council have to look at how things are being run and how women are being treated in boxing. I've been in boxing 45 years and yes, I really think it's now that women are being unfairly treated.
"Questions have to be asked and asked now."
Gerry O'Mahony, President of Munster Provincial Boxing Council also questioned the amount of funding given to the female boxers, which he said 'is non-existent.'
"Irish female boxing has progressed hugely in recent years. They are coming more and more to the fore and Ireland is probably one of the strongest in the world for ladies boxing.
"We do need equality in coaching and we do need, without question, a lady coach on board the elite performance unit
"Antoinette has serious credentials for the job and if she's not deemed suitable for a volunteers role, then those credentials are being devalued.
"The IABA is now a limited company and has to have equality. You can't be sending teams away without female coaches, it's not sensible.
"Very often female boxers feel more comfortable talking about any problems they have to female coaches."
Gerry who has 30 years experience in boxing added that national boxing as a whole needed to be looked at.
"There's a big divide now. People who have been voted into positions have no power or say anymore in decisions, now made for those non-elected people.
"The whole system has to be looked at as there are many people at grassroots now unhappy with it."
IABA had not responded to press queries at time of writing.
- Digital desk