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going four gold Super Sunday beckons for Team Ireland as four athletes go for Tokyo Olympic glory

Boxer Aidan Walsh and golfers Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry among hopefuls


Aidan Walsh of Ireland celebrates with coaches Zaur Antia, left, and Dmitry Dmitruk

Aidan Walsh of Ireland celebrates with coaches Zaur Antia, left, and Dmitry Dmitruk

Michaela Walsh reacts after her brother Aidan Walsh of Ireland defeated Merven Clair.

Michaela Walsh reacts after her brother Aidan Walsh of Ireland defeated Merven Clair.


Aidan Walsh of Ireland celebrates with coaches Zaur Antia, left, and Dmitry Dmitruk

It could be ‘Super Sunday’ for Ireland at the Olympics as four athletes go for glory in Tokyo.

Rory McIlroy, Rhys McClenaghan, Aidan Walsh and Kurt Walker will all compete for medals for Team Ireland on one of the biggest sporting days in recent times.

The action starts in the early hours of the morning, with boxer Walker first in the ring at 3.30am Irish time.

Belfast boxer Walsh has already guaranteed Ireland a medal at the Games after his performance in the welterweight quarter-finals against Merven Clair of Mauritius, leading on three of the five judges’ cards from the first round.

“This is going to be with me for the rest of my life. I can’t thank everyone enough for their support,” Walsh said after his win.

”It hasn’t even sunk in that I’m at the Olympics. You don’t know until the referee puts your hand up.”

His coach at Monkstown Amateur Boxing Club Paul Johnston said he believes the 24-year-old is on track for the top prize when he meets Britain’s Pat McCormack at 4.03am tomorrow for a place in the final.

“I think he’s in a really good position, he’s coming in as much of an unknown in terms of Olympic boxing so there’s very little pressure on him. If he boxes to his ability the way he has been, we’re very confident that he can progress into the final,” he said.

Michaela Walsh, Aidan’s sister, also qualified for Tokyo 2020, where she lost out to Italy’s Irma Testa. She tweeted yesterday: “When me and him qualified for the Olympic Games on the same day, it was the most special day of my life, but watching him win an Olympic medal brings a joy to me I’ve never felt.”

The siblings made Irish boxing history by becoming the first brother and sister to qualify for the Games and Mr Johnston said Aidan has been trying to “follow in the footsteps” of his big sister since he was a child.

There were fears Aidan had suffered an ankle injury as he celebrated his most recent victory in the ring and Team Ireland later confirmed the boxer suffered a “slight strain” but “they’re looking forward to the fight on Sunday”.

Mr Johnston said it is Aidan’s fighting style that has brought him this far.

He added: “If you threw a bag of rice at him you still couldn’t hit him. His style, his height, his reach and with his speed, it’s very difficult for an opponent to get their head around. Tactically, it’s very hard to plan against Aidan.”

He will be watching the fight with Aidan and Michaela’s parents Damian and Martine at their home on Black’s Road in west Belfast. “It’s very emotional,” he said.

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Newtownards man and gymnast McClenaghan is one of the medal favourites ahead of the pommel horse final tomorrow, as his qualifying score of 15.266 was the joint second highest overall. He and coach Luke Carson “couldn’t be more ready”, he said.

He said on Friday: “This has been the best competition build-up I have ever completed. And what a time to do it for my first Olympic Games.

“I know I have put 100pc into this, no regrets. Now let’s compete in an Olympic Final.”

Speaking to the BBC on Friday, Rhys’ mother Tracy said the family is “a bundle of nervous energy” before his appearance at 10.30am on tomorrow.

“We’re happy to hold Rhys’s nerves as well so he can stay calm,” she said.

In golf, Co Down’s Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry, who won the 148th Open at Royal Portrush in 2019, are both in the mix for Olympic medals.

The pair are now on seven-under after playing their second rounds at Kasumigaseki Country Club and are tied for sixth place and the pair are now four shots behind leader Xander Schauffele of Team USA.

Lisburn fighter Walker will face US featherweight Ragan Duke in a quarter-final tomorrow after beating world featherweight champion Miriazizbek Mirzakhalilov from Uzbekistan.

Walker said the win was “indescribable” but maintained he was not fazed ahead of the fight, coming out on top in a 4-1 majority decision.

“I just need to get my head level again and try and relax and recover. But I am buzzing,” he said. “We have the best coaches in the world. I was delighted to see them so happy because it brings me on. It will be hard to better beating the world champion. It is like a fairy tale.”

Carl Frampton spurred the fighter on, saying: “What a win for Kurt Walker – beating the current world champion.

“One win away from a medal, three wins away from a gold. No reason he can’t do it. Go and change you and your family’s life, son.”

And in athletics, there will be plenty to look forward to tomorrow with Eilish Flanagan from Tyrone in the heats of the Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase, beginning at 1.40am.

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