The change comes as of September in a move expected to enhance the team’s preparations for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Dave Conway, CEO Sports Campus Ireland in Abbotstown, confirmed yesterday the boxing programme will be re-housed in a new extension adjacent to the Institute of Irish Sport and it will include five boxing rings.
Also on site will be indoor running lanes, rehab and medical space, changing areas, a strength and conditioning unit, office accommodation and other high performance facilities. The build has been brought forward with Rio in mind.
The boxers will be anchor tenants in that other athletes will also use the new facilities. They are being built separately to the National Indoor Arena, which is itself due to be completed in 2016. The Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s high performance unit is still run from the rather cramped facilities at the National Stadium on the North Circular Road with boxers accommodated in hotels in the Dublin area. Plans are in place to include accommodation for the boxers in the Sports Campus which would allow them to host training camps with the top nations in Dublin. Junior squads will remain at the National Stadium which is itself to be refurbished.
The news is a welcome and overdue fillip to Ireland’s most successful Olympic sport. Sixteen of our 28 Olympic medals were claimed in the ring and that number will be expected to increase come Brazil. How Billy Walsh’s High Performance boxers get there is another matter. Qualification process for the Games continues to confuse, although IABA chief Fergal Carruth sought to clarify that.
The amateur fight game has undergone seismic change in recent years with rules and scoring systems altered and the lines between it and the professional ranks further blurred by the adoption of the WSB and APB competitions. WSB (World Series of Boxing) is a team-based event in which five Irish boxers, including Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon, are currently fighting. APB (AIBA Pro Boxing) is another global competition but one based on individual rankings.
Joe Ward and David Oliver Joyce are currently fighting in those latter ranks and, for the first time, boxers will qualify for the Olympics through the WSB and APB, as well as traditional World and European championships and other qualifiers.
The question is what happens should a Joe Ward or Paddy Barnes fail to qualify through their alternative routes? Would they be offered another chance via the old route and thus deny fighters who hold national titles?
“The easy answer is it is (IABA) Central Council who ratify the team on the recommendation of the high performance coach (Billy Walsh),” said Carruth. “You don’t have to be national champion. It’s been tradition but not the rule. You hear people say the champion should go but that’s not always the case. In APB, the lads who have been qualified for that were targeted by IABA. They were specially requested to come in because of past experience and calibre.”
That said, Carruth did not discount the chance there may be a need for box-offs between Irish boxers in order to decide who is afforded some of the dwindling opportunities to qualify for the Olympics later this year and/or early next.
Meanwhile, a package of €19.6m was announced for grants to National Governing Bodies for core funding, high performance, Olympic preparations and the ‘Women In Sport’ programme yesterday. Of that, €8.16m has been set aside for 22 individual high performance plans which will support athletes targeting the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brazil. The overall figures involved were broadly similar to those announced 12 months ago.
Carding grants for individual high performance athletes will be unveiled at a later date.