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what next? Kellie Harrington's Olympic gold does not paper over the cracks in Irish boxing

Next Wednesday, members of the IABA appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee


Kellie Harrington won gold for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics

Kellie Harrington won gold for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics

Kellie Harrington won gold for Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics

THE Irish Athletic Boxing Association have taken a vow of silence as they face into one of the most decisive months in their 110-year history.

Fighting fires on so many fronts, it is not surprising press queries remain unanswered and yet a nosey media is the least of their concerns right now.

The IABA is tearing itself apart with a divided Board of Directors, a schism in the Central Council, widespread disillusionment at grass-roots level and doubts over whetherthe head of the High Performance Unit, Bernard Dunne, will see out the remainder of his two-year contract.

This ought to be the best of times for the organisation as against the odds, Irish boxers secured two medals at the Tokyo Olympics.

Kellie Harrington became only the third Irish female athlete to scoop an Olympic gold medal, but so deep are the IABA’s mostly self-inflicted wounds that the Tokyo triumph could not paper over the divisions.

Next Wednesday, members of the IABA appear before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport, Gaeltacht and Media Sport Ireland – who essentially bankroll the IABA and its High Performance Unit – are also due to appear.

It could be an uncomfortable few hours for the IABA delegation as for the outgoing Central Council their moment of truth comes on November 28 at the Association’s AGM which is scheduled for Belfast. The majority of the office holders face electoral challenges.

The mood in Leinster was reflected in the ringing endorsement of the outgoing officer board, headed by President Andrew Duncan, in their elections.

They are outside the fold so to speak. Together with the Connacht Council and the Dublin County Board they withdrew their support for the executive of the Central Council over a delay in electing new members to the Board of Directors.

The Central Council retaliated by passing a motion to have the membership of those involved removed.

This issue is now in the hands of an independent membership panel according to the IABA website, but there is no let-up in the row.

Dermot McDermott, who was widely praised for his role as a referee and judge at the Tokyo Olympics was not allowed officiate at the Elite Championship. He is the registrar of the Leinster Council.

There will be changes in the composition of the Board of Directors before the end of the year.

Three different sources have confirmed that the Board’s two ‘non-boxing’ directors, David Kearns and Garry O’Gorman submitted their resignations at the last board meeting. Neither responded to emails about their decision.

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The chief executive of the IABA Fergal Carruth, the chairman of the Board Ciaran Kirwan and the President of the IABA Dominic O’Rourke did not respond to a series of questions sent by email.

Ironically, virtually all the warring factions reunited briefly when controversy arose over a recommendation from the High Performance Unit that Ireland should not send a team to the World Championships in Belgrade.

The four fighters who competed in Tokyo – Brendan Irvine, Kurt Walker, Emmet Brennan and bronze medallist Aidan Walsh – were not considered, nut the HPU’s recommendation left the Central Council in an invidious position.

Firstly, the hastily arranged Elite Championships were organised on the premise that they were effectively a trial for the world event.

Secondly, the IABA sought and were granted permission by the sport’s world body AIBA to delay submitting their team until the Elite Championships were finished.

The issue is further complicated by the absence of HPU head Bernard Dunne, who is on leave since returning from Japan.

In the end seven inexperienced fighters were sent to Belgrade, but there were significant casualties.

Two of Ireland’s best prospects for the Paris Olympics – Kieran Molloy and Gabriel Dossen – were left out of the team. So far, nobody in the IABA will explain why the HPU’s initial decision was ignored.

In the wake of a disastrous performance at the Rio Games, the IABA published a strategic plan titled Boxing Clever.

Its overall aim included the establishment of a robust corporate governance system at all levels; to communicate more effectively; to increase the organisation’s income stream and be in the top three countries for boxers qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Arguably, none of these aims have been achieved and the politicians will want to know why on Wednesday.

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