No Super Sunday for Team Ireland but Olympians turn negatives into positives

Irish hopes in boxing, golf, and gymnastics were dashed today, but many of our Olympians have time on their side — and Paris 2024 isn’t far away
No Super Sunday for Team Ireland but Olympians turn negatives into positives

Ireland's Rhys McClenaghan became the first Irish gymnast to be an Olympic finalist. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

On what was hoped would have been Super Sunday for Team Ireland at the Olympics, it turned out to be a case of so near, but yet so far.

The team went into the day with medal hopes in boxing, golf, and gymnastics but in the end, those hopes were dashed. Nonetheless many of the Olympians still have time on their side —  and Paris 2024 isn’t far away.

Two Irish boxers were hoping for better results today with one being left unable to fight due to an injury.

The news broke late last night that Aidan Walsh would not be able to take to the ring for a chance at a silver or gold medal due to an injury sustained celebrating his quarter-final win.

On Friday he celebrated by leaping into the air before going over on his ankle. However, by making the semi-final the Belfast welterweight secured a bronze medal.

President Michael D Higgins hailed Walsh’s “remarkable Olympic journey”, adding that the 24-year-old “deserves great respect for his achievements at these Games”.

With his bronze, Walsh joins an exclusive club as the 16th Irish boxer to win an Olympic medal.

 

Elsewhere in the ring, Kurt Walker's remarkable run to the quarter-finals in the men’s featherweight came to an end this morning. Walker had been hopeful of a medal after defeating top-seed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov of Uzbekistan in the previous round.

However, the 26-year-old fell on the wrong side of a split decision against Duke Ragan of the US.

Despite defeat, the Lisburn fighter was proud of his efforts.

He told RTÉ: “I showed everyone back home how good I am,” adding that a lot more people are going to know his name.

A dejected Kurt Walker following his loss. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
A dejected Kurt Walker following his loss. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

“I’m only 26, I have another eight years of boxing left in me at least. And I’m only getting better, so we’ll see what’s next."

Rhys McClenaghan was a real medal contender following his qualification for the final of the men’s pommel horse but a fall meant a podium finish wasn’t to be.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on a medal, McClenaghan has taken pride in being the first Irish gymnast to be an Olympic finalist.

At 22, the gymnast was keen to put disappointment to one side, stating that this is only an early chapter in his career.

"I’m definitely the type of person to turn a negative into a positive and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to leave this arena with this incredible experience, becoming an Olympian, becoming the first Irish gymnast to be an Olympic finalist — and that is something very special to me.

“I will be more hungry. This is a very early chapter in my gymnastics career. It didn’t go my way today. One finger placement is all it took for me to knock me off the horse. That’s the finest margins that are in this game.

I know I’ll come back a way better gymnast, a way better man.

McClenaghan added that he hopes to continue to break down barriers allowing for future generations to come through and surpass his achievements.

In golf, Rory McIlroy pushed hard for a bronze medal having “never tried so hard” in his life to finish third.

Rory McIlroy 'never tried so hard' in his life to finish third. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Rory McIlroy 'never tried so hard' in his life to finish third. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

With Xander Schauffele and Rory Sababatini having wrapped up the gold and silver medal, the former Open winner was in a seven-way playoff for bronze.

McIlroy, Great Britain's Paul Casey, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, America’s Collin Morikawa alongside CT Pan of Chinese Taipei, Chile's Mito Pereira and Colombian Sebastian Munoz were all competing for third.

McIlroy's challenge came to an end after the third playoff hole when his birdie putt came close but failed to drop.

Pan eventually went on to seal the medal.

Shane Lowry was in the medal contention ahead of the final round but his score of level par on the day left him tied for 22nd.

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