Billy Walsh insists he is keen to stay put as head coach of Irish boxing’s High Performance Unit, while World champion Michael Conlan wants to see the coach’s future resolved.
Team Ireland arrived home to Dublin Airport last night after claiming a record haul of three medals at the World Championships in Doha, including an historic first-ever gold medal for an Irishman claimed by Belfast bantamweight Conlan.
With Moate light-heavyweight Joe Ward securing silver and Portlaoise middleweight Michael O’Reilly picking up bronze, Ireland finished fourth on the medals table, surpassing the country’s previous best of two medals claimed at the 2013 Worlds.
Attention will now turn to the future of head coach Walsh, who was recently linked to a vacancy coaching the American women’s team.
It is understood that the Irish Sports Council had structured a new, improved deal for Walsh to ensure that the 52-year-old coach would be tied down to Ireland’s successful High Performance gym, but it is believed the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) dragged their heels on approving the proposed arrangement with speculation surrounding Walsh’s future ongoing for nearly two months now – although negotiations have been taking place for months.
“Look at what he’s done [at the Worlds], why would you let him go? He’s great at what he does and he’s a fantastic man to have,” said Irish team captain Conlan, who claimed the country’s first-ever gold in the 41-year history of the World Championships.
Conlan, Ward and Belfast light-flyweight Paddy Barnes are all qualified for the Rio Olympic Games next year and when asked if he expects to still be coaching the team by that time, Walsh attempted to deflect attention back onto the decorated Worlds team.
“At the moment I was really just focusing on these guys. We came [to Doha] to get this job done,” said the Irish head coach. “I don’t want to steal anybody’s thunder.
“We’re going to enjoy what they’ve done, then I’m going to go home, settle down and relax, take a few weeks off and see where I am then.”
When pressed as to whether he would like to stay on in his current role, Walsh said: “I’m eight months negotiating, if I wasn’t [keen to stay in Ireland], I’d have been gone long ago.”
The Irish coach, who worked the corner in Doha alongside fellow coaches Zaur Antia and Eddie Bolger, also ruled out any appeal over O’Reilly’s controversial Olympic box-off loss to Egypt’s Hosam Abdin.
Statistics complied by the Irish backroom team suggested the Portlaoise middleweight landed 36 punches to Abdin’s 22, but the judges still scored the bout for the Egyptian despite O’Reilly’s apparent dominance.
“There’s no avenue for appeal,” explained Walsh, referring to the absence of any technicality on which to officially query the result.
O’Reilly’s Olympic fate remains uncertain as the allocation of AIBA qualification quota places may not be confirmed until December.
Certain countries, including Cuba at O’Reilly’s 75kg weight, currently hold two quota places in one weight class, meaning a place could open up for the Irish middleweight through his achievement in reaching the World semi-final.
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