Kenneth Egan fears the departure of Billy Walsh from Irish boxing could rock Irish boxing’s coaching structures as the Olympic silver medallist insisted a coherent, long-term succession plan must be put in place.
He made his comments as Irish Sports Council Chair Kieran Mulvey gave the IABA board 24 hours to rethink the decision or face a funding review.
With the sport reeling from the imminent departure of head coach Walsh following his decision to resign from the High Performance Unit, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) are yet to announce a plan regarding who will succeed the Wexford native.
A Monday-evening statement following Walsh’s resignation was issued by the IABA, but officials were remaining tight-lipped on the situation yesterday.
It is believed that their silence is partly down to concerns over the potential legal issues that could arise should officials speak unadvisedly about an employee contract, with Walsh understood to be seeing out his one-months’ notice through holiday entitlements.
Walsh is set to fly to America tomorrow as he plans to take up a coaching role with USA Boxing, and 10-time Irish senior champion Egan has pointed to the lack of planning as part of the reason for the departure of Walsh, while he fears for the future of Irish boxing if Zaur Antia or his colleagues follow the Wexford man Stateside.
Negotiations over 52-year-old Walsh’s role are believed to have involved an offer of a short-term contract for Walsh from the IABA which would have expired after the Rio Olympics next year.
Egan praised the departing coach, while the Dubliner also spoke highly of technical coach Zaur Antia.
“He [Walsh] owes them nothing, he’s done his work for the high performance,” said Egan on Walsh’s move. “It is a loss to Irish boxing, but he has to think of himself.
“If he ends up getting a handshake after Rio and it’s the worst case scenario where the lads in the association say ‘thanks Billy, best of luck, we don’t need your services anymore’, where’s he going to be then?’
Egan also fears the possible departure of Antia, who he praised for turning Irish boxers in superstars in terms of their technical ability, as well as other senior coaches such as John Conlan and Eddie Bolger.
“That worries me. If Billy goes, and if he’s obliged to bring people with him, who’s he going to bring with him?
“He’s going to bring someone who knows the system, that’s been there, who knows how the high performance works. That could be Eddie Bolger, who’s also a fantastic coach, or it could be John Conlan or it could be Zaur Antia. What would the IABA be saying then?”
Egan claimed that a lack of a long-term plan in training and funding the development of elite boxers for a career outside the ring as coaches is a missed opportunity in terms of retaining champion boxers and moulding them into coaches.
“There’s no planning,” said Egan of the IABA. “The High Performance planning is down to a tee... but it’s outside of that, the aftermath of boxers who retire, pick up an injury or get beaten in the seniors, they get a pat on the back and that’s the end of it.
“I’ve seen it in teams throughout the world, where teams ex-boxers eventually fall into their coaching system because they’re learning and they’re an asset – a vital asset,’ added Egan, who tried his hand at coaching following his retirement, but claimed he was unwilling to continue in a voluntary capacity as he could not afford to do so.
“It was great and a nice bit of experience,” said Egan, reflecting on his assistant coaching role to John Conlan last year.
“I’m sure the association and the High Performance would have me in there voluntary day in, day out, but a man has to eat. I’ve given enough to that team as a sportsperson and the bottom line is I have to go out and make money to survive.
“There was talk for months on end that there was going to be job vacancies coming up… but I eventually said ‘thanks, but no thanks’.
“I ran for local council, won my seat… I turned my back on it, because I felt I was left with nothing,” said Egan, who now works as a local councillor on South Dublin County Council.
“Zaur can’t keep doing what he’s doing forever and it’s vital that they do get boxers that have learnt under this system to put back into it,” added Egan.
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