Terrific: 10 boxers will contest Paris 2024

Ireland will have a record-equaling number of boxers at this summer’s Olympic Games, following the conclusion of the 2nd Olympic World Qualifier. 4 boxers qualified today, bringing the total Olympic team number to 10 – a team size not seen since the 1960 Games.

579 boxers from 133 countries contested the tournament in Bangkok. As with the 1st Olympic World Qualifier in March, boxers will contest to quota; meaning, they ceased to box at a qualification bout. 

54kg Jennifer Lehane opened proceedings in style today – contesting against Hungary’s Hannah Lakotar. Jenny was in control throughout the bout, relying on clean, simple tactics and her lightning fast feet. She knew she’d booked her ticket to Paris before her hand was raised, which it was following declaration of a unanimous decision. 30:27; 30:27; 29:28; 29:28; 30:27.

Jenny, a primary school teacher, took a two year career break to focus on boxing and full time training in July, 2022. She contested the 2023 European Games and the 1st Olympic World Qualifier in Milan. Jenny says “I feel on top of the world. This is the stuff dreams are made of. I can’t believe it. We (the coaches and I) sat down together and put the tactics together – I just listened to them and stuck to my simple boxing. I think that’s what got me over the line.”

66kg Grainne Walsh stepped between the ropes two bouts after Jenny, contesting against Armenia’s Ani Hovesepyan, having won bouts against Vietnam, People’s Republic of Korea, and Cote d’Ivoire. Grainne’s superior power, punch-picking and accuracy showed, throughout. She won all rounds, and booked her ticket to Paris by virtue of a 5-0 decision. Judges scored the bout 26:30; 26:30; 27:29; 26: 30; 26:30.

Grainne says “It’s extremely hard to sum up, in words, this feeling. I feel like this was all meant to be. I feel like I qualified in Milan, and I came to Bangkok to collect my ticket. I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m just so delighted and over the moon, having my family here – I have my Dad here, and my brother and my sister, and the support of the nation and my community at home in Tullamore. I’m actually so proud of myself. It’s been a long road, and it’s only the start. The faith the coaches have shown in me, the road I’ve been on, all the knock-backs. It all had to be for this reason – if I had have turned around and walked away, some people may have done that, but each time I got a knock back – it actually set me up and added more strings to my bow – that’s why this moment is all the sweeter for me.”

50kg Daina Moorehouse was the third Irish athlete in the ring at the Indoor Stadium Hua Mak today. She won through to this stage with victories over Anush Grigoryan of Armenia and Ayln Jamez of Guatemala. Daina contested against Bulgaria’s Zlatislava Genadieva Chukanova. This was a high tempo bout, the first round of which Daina claimed 4-1. She kept up that pace in the second, to little response – however, she had a point deducted for low-head. The judges awarded her the round, but it was’t enough in the end to keep her from Paris. Her hand was raised, and a 4-1 split in her favour declared. The final scores: 29:27; 29:27; 29:27; 27:29; 29:27. High Performance Director Tricia Heberle says “Tremendous performance underpinned by meticulous preparation, strong work ethic & determination to succeed”

Daina says “I actually don’t know how to feel, I’m in my own world right now. I just can’t believe it….I think what got me over the line was, I was so close I’d gotten before. I was that extra bit hungrier. I did not want to leave here without this ticket today. I went in there and gave it everything I have.”

Tokyo bronze medalist, 71kg Aidan Walsh, had the longest path to today’s qualification bout, for several reasons. His weight was the largest by number of entries (70), and the fact 5 quota places were available meant all losing quarter finalists had to box two additional bouts, contesting for the 5th place. Aidan won bouts against Kenya, Algeria and Ukraine, before losing his quarter final on to Jordan on a 3-2 split. As part of the box-off process, he contested against Cuba yesterday, claiming a 5-0 victory to win the chance to contest today. He stepped between the ropes against Puerto Rico’s Angel Gabriel Llanos Perez. Aidan was in control of the bout from the off, dictating pace and tempo. He became a double Olympian following a unanimous decision in his favour. The final score: 29:28; 30:27; 29:28; 29:28; 30:27.

Aidan says “It’s absolutely amazing. Words just can’t describe this time. Five, six months ago I was retired and I didn’t think I was every going to get back in to boxing, to be honest. I was looking for jobs and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. With the help of some amazing people I got back on track and I’m here – it’s so hard to believe. I’m just so happy I get to share the experience with my sister (Michaela), like I did in Tokyo” Aidan’s sister, Michaela, is overcome with joy for her brother “My brother Aidan has just qualified for his 2nd Olympic Games. The feeling of pride I have for him. If I had the choice I would give up my Olympic ticket to see him go to Paris, fortunately we will both be there together. What dreams are made of. Thank you God”

92+kg Martin McDonagh contested the last bout of the qualifier against 2021 World silver medalist, Davit Chaloyan of Armenia. The first round went to Martin on a split, and the 3-2 split decision is testament to Martin’s performance. Judges scored the bout 28:29; 27:30; 29:28; 29:28; 28:29, with the Korean, Polish and German judges preferring the work of the Armenian. This is the second consecutive Olympic qualifier in which Martin has reached the qualification bouts, and gone out on a 3-2 split. This is a remarkable achievement for a super-heavy boxer who turned 21 in February, and joined High Performance in 2023 – winning, in that year, every domestic title available to him. He is an immense talent.

IABA President, Gerry O’Mahony says “I’m absolutely over the moon for them. Big day for Irish boxing – but its a big day for every club in Ireland, its a big day for every coach in Ireland. It gives them something to aspire to. The Olympics is our goal, our dream. To have the biggest number – it’s fantastic. Well done to the kids out boxed out there. And to the kids who didn’t make it, it wasn’t for the want of trying. They gave it their all, up to the last bell. We’re very proud of them. We’re proud of them all.”

Adam Nolan, 2012 Olympian, says “Ireland’s female boxing team are the only outfit in Europe who have qualified 6 from the 6 weight divisions available for Paris ‘24. Italy are the next closest with 5 from 6 but with a population of 58 million. Well done girls & coaches.. phenomenal achievement!”

The maximum team size any federation may qualify for an Olympic Games is 13. Six Team Ireland boxers have already qualified: reigning Olympic lightweight champ, Kellie Harrington, and now double Olympians 57kg Michaela Walsh and Aoife O’Rourke. 57kg Jude Gallagher booked his ticket to Paris at the 1st Olympic World Qualifier. 63.5kg Dean Clancy and heavyweight, Jack Marley, qualified at the 2023 European Games.

Homecoming

The team will depart Bangkok on Monday morning, and will land at Dublin Airport’s Terminal One at 6.45am on Tuesday morning – flight QR 019 from Doha.

Boxers will take a week off to rest and recover, and return to training on June 11th, with just 46 days from that point to the first bell in Paris.

2nd Olympic World Qualifier Team

50kg Daina Moorehouse, Enniskerry BC, Co. Wicklow

54kg Jennifer Lehane, DCU Boxing Club, Dublin

66kg Grainne Walsh, St. Mary’s BC, Tallaght, Dublin

51kg Sean Mari, Monkstown BC, Dublin

71kg Aidan Walsh, Holy Family Golden Gloves BC, Belfast

80kg Kelyn Cassidy, Saviour’s Crystal, Waterford.

92+kg Martin McDonagh, Galway Boxing Club.