Zaur Antia hits back at criticism

Irish boxing’s interim head coach Zaur Antia has hit back at criticism following a disappointing Olympic campaign.

Ireland failed to claim a medal for the first time since 2004, despite qualifying eight boxers.

Controversy surrounded the team before the opening bell in Rio when it was revealed during the pre-tournament draw that middleweight Michael O’Reilly had failed a drugs test, with the Portlaoise boxer subsequently sent home.

Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward suffered surprise losses in their opening bouts, before medal hopes Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan were on the wrong end of contentious points defeats to end an underwhelming campaign for Team Ireland.

Interim head coach Antia has insisted that a thorough “debrief and analysis” will document Ireland’s shortcomings at the Games.

“Nobody works harder than we do and nobody is more disappointed than we are at coming home with no medals,” said Antia.

“We set very high standards for ourselves, as we demand very high standards from our boxers, our coaches, and support staff. These are the standards that have delivered Olympic, World, and European medals.

“There are many factors behind our performances at these Games. Some have been well documented and others we will identify in our debrief and analysis that will be very thorough,” said the Georgian in a statement issued yesterday morning.

Antia and his coaching staff — John Conlan (father of Michael) and Eddie Bolger — have come under scrutiny, with many pundits questioning whether their workload was too high as they balanced coaching duties with management and media obligations.

Taylor’s father and former coach, Peter, also weighed over the weekend, claiming that Ireland’s boxers looked “overtrained”, while the Bray BC coach suggested that the acrimonious departure of Billy Walsh from Irish boxing last year sowed the seeds of the unsuccessful campaign.

The Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) has stated that they will conduct a review of the high performance programme from the London 2012 Games to Rio 2016 that will be published later this year, while Antia maintained that he is only keen to deal with “facts” in the post-Olympic analysis, as the coach dismissed speculation over the reasons for Ireland’s lack of success in Rio.

“Lots of people have lots of opinions and they have voiced these. They are entitled to their opinions, but in high-performance sport it’s facts that matter and not opinions,” said Antia in his statement.

“When we have all the facts I will be happy to share these with you but I will be sticking with facts and I shall leave opinions to those who don’t live and work every day in a high-performance environment.”

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