The IABA have named 12 current National Elite champions on an 18-strong squad for three meetings with the USA in America this month.
Lauren Hogan, Kellie Harrington, Grainne Walsh, Aoife Burke, Dean Gardiner, Kiril Afanasev, Caoimhin Agyarko-Hynes, Michael Nevin, Kieran Molloy, Wayne Kelly, George Bates and Evan Mecalfe, who all claimed Irish Elite belts last month, line out against the Americans.
Walsh and Molloy also collected the Best Female (inaugural Jimmy Magee Cup) and Male (President’s Cup) Boxer Awards at the National Elites.
The USA and Ireland meet in Boston next Monday, Springfield on March 15 and Manchester, New Hampshire on March 21.
The Irish squad, led by head coach Zaur Antia, are trebling up at middleweight and light-welter.
World Elite finalist Kellie Harrington lines out at lightweight, while World Junior finalist Paddy Donovan has been drafted into the panel.
Bernard Dunne, Irish Athletic Boxing Association High-Performance Director, believes that the USA versus Ireland during the St Patrick’s festival is always special.
“It’s a great opportunity to develop a partnership between us and the American team because we are not competing against each other to qualify for major tournaments out there, he said.
”I also see it as a great opportunity for both nations to start sharing ideas and developing our athletes together. America is always strong; they’ve got great strength in depth. They have a lot of talent out there.
“We’re bringing out a young team. It’s a developing team and it’s an opportunity to have a look at them in this environment. I’m sure it’s going to be a lively atmosphere at all the bouts because it’s the St Patrick’s festival and Ireland versus the USA always attracts attention.
“We have a young team, but they’ve got talent. We have talented young boxers coming through that have been coached in their clubs and developed in their clubs. They’re coming to us with a skill set and we polish them off and bring them to the next level.”
County Antrim middleweight Gerard French can’t wait to represent Ireland: “That has been my goal for as long as I can remember – to represent Ireland, and now it’s happening. My other goal is to win an Irish elite title, but this will be one of those boxes ticked off anyway,” he said.
Meanwhile, Irish Olympian Kevin McBride has been named honorary Irish captain and “Irish” Mickey Ward is honorary American skipper for the treble header.
Former Irish head coach Billy Walsh, now chief seconds with the USA, is expected to call up a number of his leading prospects.
Tentatively headlining Team USA’s roster is 2017 World Championship bronze medalist Troy Isley, four-time 2017 international gold medalist Virginia Fuchs, 2016 Youth World Champion and 2017 Elite Continental Championships silver medalist, Delante Johnson and 2016 Youth World Championship bronze medalist and 2017 USA Boxing Super Heavyweight National Champion, Richard Torrez.
“I have some good guys and gals coming through and competition for places is intense as we enter the Olympic cycle. We’re looking forward to what should be three top class meetings with Ireland,” said Walsh, an Irish Olympian and seven-time Irish Elite champion.
The Irish squad leave for the USA on Thursday.
USA v Ireland
March 12: Royale Entertainment Complex, Boston, Mass.
March 15: MassMutual Center, Springfield, Mass.
March 21: The Manchester Downtown Hotel, Manchester, N.H.
54kg: Lauren Hogan (St Brigid’s BC)
60kg: Kellie Harrington (St Mary’s BC)
69kg: Grainne Walsh (Spartacus BC)
75kg: Aoife Burke (St Mary’s BC)
91kg+: Dean Gardiner (Clonmel BC)
91kg: Kiril Afanasev (Glasnevin BC)
81kg: Caoimhin Agyarko-Hynes (Holy Trinity BC)
75kg: Michael Nevin (Portlaoise BC)
75kg: Brett McGinty (Oakleaf BC)
75kg: Gerard French (Clonard BC)
69kg: Kieran Molloy (Oughterard BC)
69kg: Eugene McKeever (Holy Family BC)
64kg: Wayne Kelly (Portlaoise BC)
64kg: Caoimhin Ferguson (Clonard BC)
64kg: Paddy Donovan (OLOL BC)
60kg: George Bates (St Mary’s BC)
60kg: Francis Cleary (Ballina BC)
56kg: Evan Metcalfe (Hyland Academy BC)
Team manager – Bernard Dunne
Head coach – Zauri Antia
Coach – Phillip Keogh
Coach – Martin Donovan
Coach – Paul Thompson