Irish eyes turn towards Kazakhstan

Team Ireland arrived home from European Olympic qualifiers in Samsun, Turkey via Dublin Airport yesterday with just a month to go before the World Women’s Championships and Olympic qualifiers in Kazakhstan.

Irish eyes turn towards Kazakhstan

The Central Asia tournament, which begins in Astana on May 19, is the end of line for women and is the last opportunity for Katie Taylor, Ceire Smith and Christina Desmond to book tickets for Rio 2016.

Brendan Irvine and David Oliver Joyce qualified for Rio in Samsun last weekend, but Taylor finished one place outside the top two standard. She beat Bulgaria’s Svetlana Staneva in the box-off for third. Irvine, Joyce and Taylor claimed bronze, but the men’s medals had Olympic tickets attached. Irvine and Joyce saw off Bulgaria’s Daniel Asenov and Turkey’s Volkan Gokcek in the flyweight and lightweight box-offs to finish in the top three.

“The tournament was tough, very tough. It’s a dream come true for me. The third round was key against a talented and strong opponent. I knew I had the engine to go for it and I went for it flat out,” said Joyce.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan’s Yana Alexseevna and Italy’s Irma Tessa have been registered by their national federations for Kazakhstan. Alexseevna denied Taylor a Rio place after beating the No. 1 seed in last Friday’s semi-finals in Samsun.

If Alexseevna and Tessa finish in the top four (semi-finals) in Kazakhstan, they’ll have qualified for the same Olympics twice, but they must take the places won at the Worlds.

Consequently, their berths won in Samsun kick back to both Taylor and Staneva. If only Alexseevna meets the standard in Kazakhstan, Taylor is through as the winner of the 3rd place box-off last Sunday. Likewise with Tessa.

Taylor, who will be aiming for her six successive title in Kazakhstan, can also qualify outright by reaching the last four. Her destiny is in her own hands.

The nightmare scenario for Irish sport is either Alesseevna or Tessa getting injured and not entering or going out in the preliminaries – they then take their Olympic places from Samsun - and Taylor not making the semi-finals. In that event, our Olympic champion will not be in Rio to defend her title unless she’s given the one invitation place for lightweights.

“I’m going to try and improve over the next few weeks and make things right for the Worlds,” said Taylor.

Meantime, the penultimate qualifier for men is in Azerbaijan in June and final qualifier is a World Series of Boxing versus AIBA Pro Boxing clash at a host city to be confirmed in either late June or July. Great Britain (9), Azerbaijan (5), Armenia (4), Italy, France and Turkey (3 each), Ireland and Lithuania (2 each) and Bulgaria, Hungary, Netherlands, Russia and Sweden (1 each) claimed the 36 Olympic places in Samsun last weekend.

Six Irish boxers, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Steven Donnelly, Joe Ward, Joyce and Irvine, have qualified for Rio.

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