donnelly steven ph
Team Ireland are still standing at Rio 2016 and the dream is still alive, according to Steven Donnelly.

Donnelly,pictured,raised the spirits in the Irish camp after blasting his way into the quarter-finals today.

The Ballymena BC welter delivered a much needed boost for Irish boxing after beating Mongolia’s two-time Olympian Tuvshinbat Byamba on a split decision to join Katie Taylor in the last-eight in Rio.

Today’s win is Donnelly’s second at the tournament in five days.The final scores read 30-27, 29-28, 28-29, with Donnelly taking rounds one and three on two cards and the Mongolian winning the middle frame on a split.

Donnelly ended up with a bit of a shiner after today’s encounter, the black eye bearing testament to the battle he came through to get his country back to winning ways.

“We’re (Team Ireland) still in this competition and we’ll be there until the end, he said. “I needed to raise the spirits.The dream is still alive, anything is possible.”

The Ulster ace started brightly with a cluster of combinations against his static opponent, but Byamba, a vastly experienced and durable orthodox with over 400 fights under his belt shook, shook off his sluggish start to trouble Donnelly in the close exchanges.

Donnelly,working the body well at mid way and straightening Byamba on a number of occasions with his jab,lashed home three solid heads shot to take the frame 2-1.

Byamba picked up the pace of an untidy second round to leave the scores level one two cards with Donnelly ahead on one.

But the Irishman was back on his toes, and switching from orthodox to southpaw, found the target with all the big punches going down the final stretch to take the third on two cards and seal a crucial win.

Steven Donnelly finds the target in Rio today

Steven Donnelly finds the target in Rio today

He’ll now meet the Morocco’s No. 1 seed Mohamed Rabii, who beat Kenya’s Nduku Okwiri today, in the quarter-finals on Saturday with a bronze medal up for grabs.

Rabbi, a Casablanca-born orthodox, had an excellent 2015, winning a World Elite title in Doha, Qatar, an African Confederation gold medal in his hometown and six World Series of Boxing (WSB) fights on the trot.

He initially qualified for Rio courtesy of his performances in WSB, but he then made the qualification standard again by virtue of winning AIBA World gold in the Persian Gulf.

However, he has not been so prolific in 2016 as he dropped a unanimous decision to Paul Kroll of the USA in the WSB and was beaten in the semi-finals of the Chemistry Cup by Germany’s Araik Marutjan in Germany.

Okwiri also won the second round on two cards against the World champion today.

Meanwhile, no Irish boxers are in action Friday, but the team are facing into a busy weekend with Donnelly, Brendan Irvine, Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor between the ropes on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Both Conlan and Taylor are the No. 1 seeds in their respective bantam and light classes in Rio.

Irish boxing boxing will be keeping an eye on the result of the women’s lightweight clash between Finland’s Mira Potkonen and Brazil’s Adriana Araujo tomorrow.

The winner will meet Taylor, who received a bye, in the quarter-finals at 3pm (Irish time) on Monday.

Irish Draw Rio Olympics

August 7th (last 32)
60kg David Oliver Joyce (Ireland) beat Andrique Allisop (Seychelles) 3-0
69kg Steven Donnelly (Ireland) beat Zahir Kedache (Algeria) 3-0

August 8th (last 16)
49kg Paddy Barnes (Ireland) lost to Samuel Carmona (Spain) 1-2

August 9th (last 16)
60kg David Oliver Joyce (Ireland) lost to Albert Selimov (Azerbaijan) 0-3

August 10th (last 16)
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) lost Carlos Andreas Mina (Ecuador) 1-2

August 11th (last 16)
69kg Steven Donnelly (Ireland) beat Tuvshinbat Byamba (Mongolia) 2-1

August 12th (last 16)
75kg Michael O’Reilly (Ireland) lost to Uziel Rodriquez (Mexico) W/O

August 13th (last 32)
52kg Brendan Irvine (Ireland) v Shakhobidin Zoirov (Uzbekistan)
69kg Steven Donnelly (Ireland) v Mohammed Rabii (Morocco)

August 14th (last 16)
56kg Michael Conlan (Ireland) v Aram Avagyan (Armenia)

August 15th (Q/Final)
60kg Katie Taylor (Ireland) v Mira Potkonen (Finland) or Adriana Araujo (Brazil)

Irish squad

60kg (Lightweight) – Katie Taylor (Bray)

49kg (Light-flyweight) – Paddy Barnes (Holy Family)
52kg (Flyweight) – Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s)
56kg (Bantamweight) – Michael Conlan (Clonard)
60kg (Lightweight) – David Oliver Joyce (St Michael’s Athy & AIBA Pro Boxing)
69kg (Welterweight) – Steven Donnelly (All Saints)
75kg (Middleweight) – Michael O’Reilly (Portlaoise)
81kg (Light-heavyweight) – Joe Ward (Moate & AIBA Pro Boxing)

Team Manager: Joe Hennigan
Coaches: Zaur Antia, Eddie Bolger, John Conlan
Physio: Julianne Ryan
Sport Psychologist: Gerry Hussey