Shock elimination for Irish fighter in Olympic qualifiers

Michael O'Reilly
Michael O'Reilly

Ireland has suffered a major setback at the Olympic qualifying in Samsun, Turkey with the shock elimination of middleweight Michael O’Reilly.

The Portlaoise boxer was the number one seed in the 75kg weight class but he dropped a unanimous 3-0 decision to an unknown Finnish boxer Ilari Kijala.

O’Reilly won the gold medal at the inaugural European Games in Baku last year and later claimed a bronze medal at the World championships in Doha.

Indeed, he was desperately unlucky not to secure an Olympic place in Qatar as he clearly beat a veteran Egyptian fighter in a box off but didn’t get the verdict.

O’Reilly was still ranked as the world number 2 middleweight and the number one European going into the Samsun tournament but he failed to justify his rankings in today’s fight.

He will have only final chance to secure an Olympic place at a tournament in Baku in June.

But there are unhappy parallels between O’Reilly’s case and that of Joe Ward who sensationally missed out on qualifying for the London Olympics.

Ward suffered  a surprise defeat at the World championship followed by a highly controversial loss at the subsequent qualifying tournament in Turkey.

Even though Ward ultimately took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport he didn’t make the London Games.

Earlier, Ireland’s David Oliver Joyce advanced to the quarter finals of the lightweight category.

Joyce, who was desperately unlucky not to make the London Games, lost the first round of his contest against Otar Eranosyan from Georgia but he won the next two to get the verdict.

He had previously beaten the Georgian in the final of the EU championships in Sofia in 2014.

Kilkenny's Darren O'Neill kept alive his dream of making it to a second Olympics when he stopped Sweden's Gabriel Richards in the first round of their heavyweight bout at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Samsun.

O’Neill – who was the Irish team captain at the London Olympics - has no time to savior the victory, however, as he is in action in the quarter finals tomorrow against one of the gold medal favourites, Abdulkadir Abdullayev from Azerbaijan.

The latter won the gold medal at the European Games in Baku last summer and was unbeaten in his six appearances in the World Series of Boxing last summer.

Tomorrow is also D day for the other five Irish boxers left in the hunt for Rio places. Like O’Neill, David Oliver Joyce has just 24 hours to prepare for his bout against Vazgen Sufaryants from Belarus.

Flyweight Brendan Irvine faces a French opponent in his quarter final.

Katie Taylor will be a hot favourite to reach the last four when she takes on Yvonne Rasmussen from Denmark.

After her giant killing exploits on Monday, Cork’s Christina Desmons faces a Hungarian opponent while Ceire Smith probably faces the toughest task as she takes on Tetyna Kob from the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, World bronze medallist O'Reilly who suffered a shock elimination today has vowed to still make it to Rio.

He said on social media that he hurt his shoulder in the first round which restricted him during the contest.