Future bright for Irish boxing, says former chief Keegan

EXPECT more boxing medals from major championships over the coming years if not weeks was the message for the former head of the IABA’s High Performance Unit, Gary Keegan, yesterday.

Since masterminding Ireland’s three-medal haul at the Olympic Games in Beijing, he has moved to the Institute of Sport as Technical Services Director.

But yesterday he was back among his own when he joined the hundreds of supporters who assembled at Dublin Airport to welcome home the Irish youths team from the World Youths Boxing Championships in Mexico where they won four medals — a complete set of gold, silver and bronze.

Ray Moylett from the St Anne’s club in Westport created a sensation when he out-pointed the Cuban favourite for the lightweight title en route to Ireland’s first-ever gold at this level.

Dubliner Jamie Kavanagh, from the famed Crumlin club, duplicated Andy Lee’s achievement in Havana in 2002 when he won a silver medal while Belfast light heavyweight, Thomas McCarthy, and light welterweight, David Joe Joyce from the St Michael’s club in Athy both won bronze medals.

And there is little doubt that bantamweight Tyrone McCullagh would have won a medal but for the fact that he failed the medical the morning after breaking his thumb when defeating fancied Shokrugh Khudjabekov (Uzbekistan), 11-8 for a place in the last eight.

“There were a lot of amazing performances from those lads out there. During my time a medal at those championships was the medal that always eluded me,” Gary Keegan said.

“Now we are here at Dublin Airport to welcome four medallists and to see us up there at the top of the medal table with the likes of Cuba and Russia is just amazing.

“But we must not forget the amount of work that has gone into this team. The coaches, Jim Moore and Jimmy Payne, have done a terrific job with the lads. Jim Moore, who managed the junior/youth programme has vast experience having coached his own son, James, to a bronze medal at the world championships in 2001, as well as an Olympian and Jimmy Payne was with us for the five years I was there.

“He came in through the personal coach programme, working every weekend with the boxers. There has been tremendous work going on throughout the whole period under the direction of the team manager, Paddy Gallagher. John Cleary was looking after the strength and conditioning side, making sure that they were prepared for the heat too.

“Mary Louise Ryan was the physio and Sharon Madigan, the dietician, also had a major role to play particularly in the case of Ray Moylett who struggled with his weight out there. The Sports Psychologist, Gerry Hussey, worked with those lads for two weeks before they went out.

“It was a great, all-round team effort and the guys who showed form going out were the guys who delivered. Like I said, that was a medal that eluded me and it was a very significant medal. We should be very proud of those lads and we must not forget their clubs and coaches.

“We are going through a very exciting period for Irish boxing. In the past five years we have won 25 major medals at European, world and Olympic levels and they do not include all the medals we won at multi-nations and other big tournaments around the world. We must be doing something right.”

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