Billy Walsh’s fairytale ending as row rages on

Former Ireland boxing head coach Billy Walsh has put his nightmare row with the sport’s chiefs behind him as he begins his “fairytale” new life in the US.

Billy Walsh’s fairytale ending as row rages on

The former Irish head coach was officially unveiled by USA Boxing as the US Women’s National Team Coach yesterday and has already begun preparing them for the 2016 Olympics.

Speaking in Memphis, he declared: “It’s a fairytale for me. I’m from the working class area of Wolfe Tone Villas in Wexford and here I am now as USA head coach.

“I’ve loved boxing all my life, both as a boxer and a coach with Ireland. It’s an honour to be coach to the world’s top boxing nation.”

But as the country’s most successful ever sports coach showed he’d moved on, hopes of a truce between the warring bodies in charge of Irish boxing were dashed as both sides came out fighting again over his resignation.

The Irish Amateur Boxing Association is to meet next week to begin the process of finding his replacement with just 36 weeks to go to the Rio Olympics.

But the Irish Sports Council which will fund the new appointment refused to give the IABA a full vote of confidence. Chief executive John Treacy told the Oireachtas Sports Committee: “Our confidence is shaken.”

IABA chairman Joe Christle, who also attended the four-hour grilling, said the association’s position would be vindicated if an independent inquiry was held.

“Any suggestion that the directors wanted Billy to leave is totally and utterly refuted,” he said. “The suggestion that he is the victim of a campaign to oust him from his job is untrue.”

Senator Eamonn Coghlan, a former Olympian, rejected Mr Christle’s statement. “You say you wanted Billy to stay. Personally, I don’t believe that,” he said.

Kieran Mulvey, chairman of the ISC, was highly critical of the lack of urgency in the IABA’s response to Mr Walsh, who told them last February he had a job offer from the US and wanted to renegotiate his terms. “We are still at a loss how eight months passed in a negotiation with one of your most vital employees,” he said.

Kieran Mulvey, chairman of the ISC
Kieran Mulvey, chairman of the ISC

Mr Christle said the impasse was over finance, directly conflicting with Mr Treacy, who said it was over non-financial issues.

The IABA chair claimed the enhanced pay deal sought by Mr Walsh would have amounted to €1.6m over his remaining 13 years as a permanent employee of the IABA.

“It would have been irresponsible, if not reckless, to commit to this type of liability.” He claimed the other coaches and boxers would “inevitably” seek to renegotiate their own remuneration if better terms were offered to Mr Walsh.

Belatedly, the IABA gave Mr Walsh the option of switching his permanent status for a three-year contract on higher pay but negotiations broke down on conditions attached to the contract, including restricted contacts with the ISC, the Olympic Council of Ireland, and the media.

IABA director, solicitor Ciarán Kirwan, insisted the conditions were standard and unlikely to be invoked.

Mr Walsh would not be drawn on the controversy, but hinted at the relief he felt to find a welcome mat still waiting for him in the US after eight long months. “They [the Americans] have been nothing but honourable to me,” he said.

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