Perfect start for Walsh’s fighting Irish

THE Irish challenge got off to an astonishing start at the European boxing championships in Liverpool yesterday when the two boxers in action won their respective contests and the other seven members of the team got byes into the last 16 in their divisions.

Ryan Lindberg from the Immaculata club in Belfast got Ireland’s campaign under way with a clever 9-4 victory over a tough Turk, Abdullah Dursion, in the afternoon session while, last night, Willie McLoughlin created a big upset when he outpointed Mariano Hilario Jiminez from Spain 14-5 in an exciting welterweight contest.

“This was a very good win and an excellent performance,” Coach Billy Walsh insisted. “Willie was in against a difficult opponent but he performed well behind a water-tight defence. He closed his man down, cut him off and got his punches off early, scoring with right hooks and left hooks to the head and body.

“Once he got ahead he built on the lead and looked confident throughout the contest. Sometimes what you see in training does not relate to what you see later in the ring but Willie had that bit of confidence about him and I knew he was capable of producing.

“Having said that, this was one of his best ever performances. It was a massive performance by any standard.

“And from a team point of view we now have all of our boxers into the last 16 in their respective divisions.”

McLoughlin now meets a German on Saturday evening for a place in the quarter finals.

Billy Walsh admitted he was very pleased that so many got byes into the second round of the tournament.

“You don’t often get the luck of the draw but we got seven byes and that is something you have to be happy with.

“It gets you a step closer to where you want to go but while overall you are happy with a draw you must remember that there is a tough assignment ahead of you down the way.

“Like I said this is a new-look Irish team and we did not have all that much time to work with them so we will be looking very closely at the performances out here.

“We would obviously like to think we have medal chances in the likes of Darren O’Neill, David Oliver Joyce and, of course, John Joe Joyce but you always remember that it is difficult to medal at the European championships.

Lindberg, and Irish Examiner Junior Sports Star Award winner last year, was only a point up at the end of the first round despite dominating the fight.

“He was getting through with some telling right hooks but did not get any points from them,” Billy Walsh said. “But Ryan himself knew it and that fact alone was going to help his confidence. But this was a tough opponent and he was always going to have to work hard for a point. Dursion drew level and the fight was on a knife-edge going into the last round when Ryan was still just a point ahead.

“Then the Turk began to show signs of fatigue while Ryan was coming on strong and it was only then that the telling right hooks began to tell.”

Lindberg will now meet Samir Mammadov of Azerbaijain in the last sixteen on Saturday afternoon.

Meanwhile, featherweight David Oliver Joyce faces Beijing Olympian Joe Murray from England in the last sixteen on Sunday and the winner of this bout could face the Olympic champion from Beijing, Vasyl Lomachenko of the Ukraine, in the quarter finals. It will be remembered that Lomachenko won the boxer of the tournament award at the Games.

John Joe Joyce is the only Irish Olympic boxer in action at those championships and he will launch his campaign on Monday afternoon against the Scottish light welterweight, John Tain. Having missed out on this evening’s preliminaries, light heavyweight Darren O’Neill is scheduled to box for a place in the quarter finals in the second session on Sunday. Heavyweight Con Sheehan from Clonmel is due to make his debut on Monday evening when he will box for a place in the quarter finals.

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