Billy Walsh reveals heartache over end of his role as Ireland coach

BoxingBy Lynne Kelleher
Billy Walsh
Billy Walsh

Ireland’s most successful ever Olympic coach said he spent sleepless nights crying as he agonised over his decision to say goodbye to Irish boxing to head to the USA

In the aftermath of Billy Walsh’s controversial departure, Ireland’s boxing team imploded in Rio.

Golden girl Katie Taylor was knocked out in the first round, as Ireland failed to get a single medal after winning six in London.

In stark contrast, Walsh continued his run of Olympic medal success in Rio with the US, as fighter Claressa Shields became the first American boxer to capture back-to-back golds, capping their most prolific Olympics in boxing in nearly a generation as they took home gold, silver and bronze medals.

A new UTV documentary, Emigration Nation, has tracked Billy’s journey as he settled into his role as USA head coach. 

It captures how he overcame an initially hostile reception with his own unique brand of Wexford charm when he first arrived last November.

Initially, golden girl Shields disagreed with his methods, but she later said: “Always coaches say I’m the perfect fighter. He says I need to do this, add this. He has brought a lot.”

Billy’s departure was seen as a huge blow to Ireland’s chance of medals at the Olympics, but he revealed in the show that he never wanted to go.

He said: “I went in and said: ‘Guys I don’t really want to go. I’ve been made an offer and I know you can’t match it. I don’t want you to match it. I just want to be on a reasonable level of guys doing my job in Ireland in sports that are less successful’. 

“The final piece of the contract negotiations failed. Through many days and nights on my own crying about it, a few days later I decided it was time to go.”

Despite the emotional wrench, 52-year-old Billy admitted he would have been mad to pass up the opportunity.

“If I had refused to come, it would have haunted me for the rest of my life,” he told the documentary.

Emigration Nation starts on UTV Ireland tonight at 7.30pm.