One week on from Michael Conlan’s world championship final win, officials from the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) were last night preparing a defence for the increasing criticism launched at them following the resignation of Billy Walsh.
IABA chiefs are expected to be invited to speak at an Oireachtas committee meeting following on from a loaded attack launched at the association yesterday by Irish Sports Council/Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey.
Meanwhile, the IABA are continuing to attempt to put a new coaching structure in place as Walsh prepares to fly to America this morning to take up a new job with USA Boxing.
Just last week, Team Ireland were celebrating an historical success as Belfast bantamweight Conlan became the first Irishman to win a senior world title and now the IABA are facing the reality of losing one of the main men in Conlan’s corner in Doha.
Walsh is set to fly to New York before travelling to Memphis for the US Olympic trials as he prepares to pen a new Stateside contract, despite Mulvey’s late demands for the IABA to keep the 52-year-old Co Wexford native within Irish boxing.
Technical coach Zaur Antia — hailed by many senior Irish boxers as the best coach in the world — has been lined up by the IABA to take over from Walsh in an interim capacity, although Walsh has not ruled out the possibility of recruiting his former colleagues. However, it is understood the IABA are reluctant to allow one person to lead the High Performance Unit in a similar role to that occupied by Walsh.
Other senior coaches, including John Conlan, father and club coach of newly-crowned world champion Michael, and Eddie Bolger, coach of world silver medallist Joe Ward, seem likely to continue in their roles, although certain duties may be delegated on a shared or rotational basis due to the loss of Walsh.
The IABA last night maintained its silent stance on the fallout from the Walsh saga, although the association has come under tremendous pressure as the Irish Sports Council prepares to launch an investigation into the affair.
Walsh announced his resignation from his post as head coach of Irish boxing’s High Performance Unit last Monday following eight months of failed efforts to negotiate a new deal with the IABA.
Mulvey yesterday threatened to review Sports Council funding for the IABA on Tuesday night before launching further attacks on the boxing association at an Oireachtas committee meeting yesterday.
“We are not happy at the top level at how this organisation is being run and its engagement with the head coach”, said Mulvey, who is also the chairman of the Labour Relations Commission, while promising not to cut funding for boxers, coaches or clubs, but refixing his crosshairs at the IABA.
The ISC chairman also backed up Walsh’s claims earlier this week that he was presented with a revised contract offer by the IABA that allegedly involved a ‘gagging order’ on the Wexford coach, ordering him to seek the approval of IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth if he wished to speak to the media, Sports Council or Olympic Council of Ireland.
It is believed that IABA officials are concerned by threats as the eight-month series of negotiations with Walsh had originally proceeded on an understanding that their funding would not be under threat even if an agreement could not be reached.
However, the ISC and government officials are so perplexed by the IABA’s approach that structural changes may be demanded.
Legal complexities prevent the Sports Council from immediately halting IABA funding, while it is also understood that there is no appetite within the ISC to take over the HPU.
Other than a Monday-evening statement that followed Walsh’s resignation, the IABA have remained silent on the issue and it is believed that boxing officials are reluctant to comment due to potential legal concerns.
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