David Oliver Joyce’s boyhood dream comes true at 5.30pm local time tomorrow evening when he steps into the ring as the first of Ireland’s boxers to compete in the Olympic Games in Rio.
Nobody could be prouder. Nobody more deserving. It is an Olympic debut that has been years coming and, for a long time, seemed it never would.
The boy from Athy was 12 when he first won an Irish title. Six Elite Irish titles have followed and a European title.
But never what he really wanted — the dream of achieving an Olympic place that was denied his father when he was at his prime in senior Irish boxing.
Three times, Joyce attempted to qualify for Ireland’s Olympic team for the Games in Beijing in 2008. Three time he came close, three times he missed out.
Again for London four years ago he fell short — and only this year, at his eighth attempt in a qualifying tournament, did he finally make the grade.
Joyce recounted his troubles in the media mixed zone after training in the RioCentro Pavilion 6 where boxing starts this morning and where he will fight tomorrow.
“I was devastated to miss out on Beijing because a cousin of mine qualified. I went to qualifying tournaments in Chicago, Athens, and Italy but missed out in all of them,” said the St Michael’s, Athy, lightweight.
“I got married after those Games and my wife and I told each other that London would be my time. Then London came and passed. I was beaten by an Indian by two points in Azerbaijan, got caught by him in the last four seconds. Otherwise I would have qualified.”
He was at the point of giving up. Devastated, he did not box again for seven months. “I thought my dream has gone,” said Joyce.
It was his family that persuaded him to give it another go. “My granny, who passed away last year, inspired me to try and go again for the Olympic Games. I’m here today because of her encouragement.
“She just told me, ‘Never give up on your dream’. She knew how much I wanted it. She was a big boxing fan. When I was growing up, 13 years old, she was always there, always coming to the boxing shows and cheering me on. You’d spot her, she’d be shouting loudest.
“This is my last opportunity to do something at an Olympic Games. No point saying I’ll be around for Tokyo.
"I’m 29 years old. The most difficult thing for me is getting out of Ireland. We’ve got a lot of good boxers. Really tall guys as well. And it’s tough because who knows, in four years’ time, I could be number 2, number 3 and never get a chance to go again.”
He laughs at the suggestion that he has been Ireland’s ‘nearly man’.
“Yes, sure, I’ve always been beaten on the final hurdle. Bronze medals at Europeans and world championships, I got to the stage where I thought I had it and I didn’t have it. I boxed the great Ukrainian (Vasyl) Lomachenko in 2008 at the European championships for a bronze medal but he stopped my dream.”
Tomorrow he faces a man who, at the tender age of 23, has been voted Seychelles’ sportsman of the year twice already.
Andrique Allisop waited no time at all for the fulfillment of his Olympic dream because he fought in London in his teens. But Joyce thinks he has been kept waiting too long.
“This is my chance and I want to enjoy it.”
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