By Joseph O’Neill follow Joe on twitter @joe_90
Wednesday saw double Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes call for the creation of an Irish WSB team. However, considering the current sports funding landscape in Ireland, Barnes’s calls look likely to fall on deaf ears. Not ones to wallow in doom and gloom, irish-boxing.com considers here an alternate reality where an Irish WSB team actually existed. What would it be like and who would be on it?
As far as the franchise name goes, Irish Wolfhounds would fit the bill perfectly. Alternatively The Fighting Irish is another option (although the lawyers at the University of Notre Dame probably wouldn’t be too happy with that choice).
Coaching would be done by the current high-performance dream team of Wexford’s Billy Walsh and Georgia’s Zuar Antia. The duo have been held up as being largely responsible for Ireland’s recent transformation into one of the world’s leading amateur boxing nations.
Home matches would be held in the 1,954 seater National Boxing Stadium on Dublin’s South Circular Road. The glitz and glamour of the WSB would be a welcome addition to the world’s only purpose built boxing arena
Meet the Wolfhounds
At Light Flyweight (49kg) would be team captain Paddy Barnes. The ferocious and outspoken Ulsterman is one of Ireland’s most decorated amateur boxers with 2 Olympic bronze medals (2008, 2012), European gold (2010) and silver (2013), EU silver (2008), and 2 Commonwealth golds (2010, 2014). The Holy Family BC man also has experience in the WSB boxing for D&G Italia Thunder. He would be ably backed up by Mullinger’s EU Bronze medalist (2014) Hughie Myers.
Flyweight (52kg) would feature an even mix of boxers looking to fill the void left by Mick Conlon since he has moved up in weight. These would Belfast’s internationally experienced Ruairi Dalton, the similarly experienced Chris Phelan of the Defence Forces, and a whole host of up and coming prospects such as Adam Courtney, Evan Metcalfe, and Myles Casey.
Mick Conlan would be the Bantamweight (56kg) king. He holds an Olympic bronze (2012), European silver (2013) and Commonwealth gold (2014) to his name. Additionally, the Belfastman is a WSB veteran having boxed for the USA Knockouts, German Eagles and, currently, D&G Italia Thunder. Pushing Conlan for a starting berth would be Kurt Walker. The Canal BC man is a winner of a World Youth bronze (2012) and a European Youth Silver (2013) and the Antrim-man is a huge prospect.
At Lightweight (60kg) the Wolfhounds would be led by triple EU gold medalist (2008, 2009, 2014) David Oliver Joyce. The St. Michael’s Athy 27 year old has the perfect style for the format having previously been a member of the Istanbulls and German Eagles franchises. The depth of talent at lightweight is great and can be seen in the southpaw trio of the rangy Holy Trintity boxer ‘Sugar’ Sean McComb, Commonwealth bronze medallist (2014) Joe Fitzpatrick, and European Youth gold medalist (2013) Gary Cully of Naas.
There would be a similar pool of talent available to the Wolfhounds at Light Welterweight (64kg). This includes current national champiom Dean Walsh, Mayoman and European gold medalist (2011) Ray Moylette, and tenacious Commonwealth bronze medalist (2014) Sean Duffy. Additionally there would be experience provided by European bronze medal winner (2008) Ross Hickey and EU (2009) and European (2010) bronze medalist Eric Donovan. Donovan also has memories of being a WSB champion having won the team competition in 2013 with the Astana Arlans of Kazakhstan.
Welterweight (69kg) would feature current Poland Hussars fighter and Commonwealth bronze medalist (2014) Steven Donnelly. The hard-hitting Ballymena puncher would be joined by Olympians Adam Nolan (2012) and John-Joe Joyce (2008). Teammate of Katie Taylor at Bray BC, Nolan is a skilled southpaw who would represent an awkward challenge to any opponent. ‘Triple J’ is an EU bronze medalist (2008) and has experience of the WSB having fought for the Miami Gallos.
At Middleweight (75kg) the Wolfhounds two main options would be EU silver medalist (2014) Michael O’Reilly, and Commonwealth bronze medalist (2014) Connor Coyle. The Portlaoise and Derry natives would be looking to carry on the recent tradition of high-quality and high-achieving Irish middleweights (Lee, Sutherland, O’Neill, Quigley).
Joe Ward would be the undoubted star at Light Heavyweight (81kg). The World bronze (2013) and European gold (2011) medalist has developed a more professional style from his time with the British Lionhearts in the WSB and on the AIBA Pro Boxing circuit and would arguably be the Wolfhounds most talented boxer. Providing an able deputy would be Derry’s Sean McGlinchey. The 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist has predicted that he will turn pro within the next year but an Irish WSB team would surely persuade him to stay amateur.
At Heavyweight (91kg) the Wolfhounds would have three stand-out options. These are European Youth silver medalist (2011) Gary Sweeney, Commonwealth silver medalist (2010) Steven Ward and Darren O’Neill of Kilkenny. Galwegian Sweeney will soon get some WSB experience having been drafted by the Mexico Guerreros. The man Sweeney edged out on a split-decision in the 2014 National Finals, Steven Ward, would provide competition for places. O’Neill, a European silver (2010), EU gold (2009) and EU silver medalist (2014) is a recent addition to the amateur heavyweight scene, and would provide a cool head and vital experience for the team.
Last of all, Superheavyweight (91kg+). Leading the line for Ireland would be Dean Gardiner of Clonmel BC. Gardiner has spent the majority of his career in club-mate Con Sheehan’s sizable shadow. However with Sheehan turning pro, the Wolfhounds would provide the man they call ‘breakfast’ an opportunity to shine. This year Gardiner has also been drafted by the Mexico Guerreros underlining his undoubted quality. Providing back-up would be the experienced Belfastman Jason Barron of the Holy Trinity BC.