Zaur Antia will guide Ireland’s boxers through to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year after confirmation from Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy that the bid to find a permanent successor to Billy Walsh will not kick into gear until after the Games.
Antia, the Georgian coach who has been hailed for his technical know-how by the likes of Katie Taylor and Paddy Barnes, was named interim head coach to the Irish Amateur Boxing Association’s (IABA) high performance unit after Walsh’s departure for the US last October.
“The IABA will probably look at all that in due course,” said Treacy, at the opening of the Institute of Sport High Performance Training Centre yesterday.
“Zaur Antia has been appointed and I’m sure as we get past Rio they’ll be looking at what other sports have in place in terms of high performance systems and maybe evaluating at that stage, with ourselves, and coming in looking for our support.
“(Antia) has been in the system a long period of time,” he added. “Everyone acknowledges he is a fantastic coach and is very capable of doing a good job, and we will give him every support, from the Institute, from Paul McDermott on the high performance side. We will give the IABA 100% support.”
Comforting words, yet it is less than three months since Treacy’s Sport Ireland and the IABA were very publicly at loggerheads over the matter of Walsh’s loss to the sport here with both being hauled in to explain the fiasco by an Oireachtas Committee at Leinster House.
Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey had by then already called into question the funding arrangement between the bodies while Treacy spoke of a “fracture” within the boxing community itself and admitting relations with the IABA had been strained for over six months.
Treacy also went as far as to say that his confidence in the IABA had been “shaken” by their handling of the Walsh issue, but the language he used about the body yesterday was far more conciliatory. If there is any more dirty washing to be done, it won’t be carried out in public.
Business as normal, assured Treacy who said that the bodies had held a number of meetings either side of the festive season.
“You build confidence over time and you look into people’s eyes and you either see sincerity or not,” he said when reminded of his words last October, “and we see sincerity in what they are saying to us. We will work with them and make sure we support them.”
IABA chairman Joe Christle suggested at that Oireachtas meeting that an independent review into the Walsh affair would perhaps be in order, but Treacy all but ruled that out yesterday. Clearly, what is done is done and others feel the same.
Gary Keegan preceded Walsh as chief of the IABA’s high performance unit — indeed, he set the whole thing up. He too had to put up with boxing’s internecine politics and nitpicking before finally leaving the association for pastures where he was appreciated more.
Now director of the Irish Institute for Sport, Keegan lamented the loss of his successor to the US women’s programme, but added that the system here has to move on and, in that, he was echoing what people on all sides of the Walsh debate have been saying since late last year.
“People will transition,” said Keegan. “That’s the way it is.”
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