Walsh to meet Egan on Olympic plans

KENNETH EGAN is scheduled to meet Irish coach Billy Walsh later today and will travel to Belfast on Friday with the High Performance squad as the build-up to the London Olympics 2012 gets under way.

There were concerns about the prospects of the Beijing silver medallist leading the Irish team into the new Olympic cycle when he failed to show up for last Friday night’s international against the USA.

It is now understood Egan left for New York after photographs of him, taken with a mobile phone during the week, subsequently appeared in a tabloid newspaper.

Last night, however, he was on his way back to Dublin and Billy Walsh confirmed that they will meet him today to discuss plans for the Olympics.

“You can take it that Kenny will be returning to the High Performance Unit,” he said. “What has happened is a mere blip that has been blown up out of all proportions by certain elements of the media who were feeding off it. To say they have made a mountain out of a molehill would be an understatement.

“After the Olympics Games we all needed a break. Obviously some of the lads were going to go out and enjoy themselves and Kenny certainly did that. Indeed, judging from some of the performances in the national championships, some of the others did too.

“Naturally Kenny was out enjoying himself. He is of a friendly disposition and obviously there were people out there who took advantage of his good nature. He was standing in for photographs with people and then those pictures, some taken with mobile phones, were appearing in the tabloid press and giving the impression that there was something sinister going on, which was not the case at all.

“There was always going to be a lot of speculation when Kenny did not show up for last week’s international but there is an explanation for that.

“His Sports Council funding is not an issue. I was in with the Irish Sports Council (ISC) today and they don’t have a problem.

“At the moment we are getting the High Performance squad together. We will take 20 boxers, including Katie Taylor, to Belfast this weekend for the first big get-together and Kenny will be included in that squad.

“I spoke with the boxers who lost their titles after the international in Athy on Sunday night and they can’t wait to get back into full training and I am sure Kenny feels exactly the same.

“Since he came back from Beijing there have been an awful lot of demands on him but that is more or less over now. When he goes back into full training he won’t have much time to enjoy himself. He was through it all in the five years since the High Performance Unit was established.

“This weekend will see the beginning of another long and difficult journey up to and including the Olympic Games in 2012. It is not going to be easy for anyone, Kenny included. The fact that you have won an Olympic medal does not make it any easier. In fact it can make it more difficult. You wake up every morning knowing you are an Olympic medallist and that is an extra bit of pressure on you no matter how strong you are.”

The ISC who played a major role in persuading Egan not to turn pro is set to stand by him now in the knowledge that their investment is secure.

An ISC spokesman said speculation about his funding was unfounded and they are prepared to allow Billy Walsh to resolve any issues that arise.

“This is a matter for Kenny Egan, Billy Walsh and IABA and I have no doubt they will resolve it,” Paul McDermott said. “We were concerned when he did not appear for last week’s international but, as far as we are concerned, the welfare of the boxer is paramount.”

And Egan’s return will be good news, too, for promoter Brian Peters who, it is understood, has the rematch of the Olympic final almost finalised.

This means that Egan is set to renew rivalry with China’s Zhang Ziaoping on the undercard to the Bernard Dunne-Ricardo Cordoba world title fight at The O2 on March 21.

Peters said no expense would be spared to get the Olympic champion to Dublin and it would appear he has succeeded in providing Irish boxing fans with the most exciting card ever staged in Ireland featuring all of the country’s big amateurs alongside Dublin’s favourite son. This will provide Egan with an opportunity to reverse what some regarded as a “hometown decision” in Beijing.

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