Team Ireland kept the titles flowing over the weekend at the European Boxing Championships in Montenegro. Following the three gold medals and two silver podium places on Saturday, light welterweight champion Amy Broadhurst picked up boxer of the tournament, while Ireland collected the team prize for topping the medal table of 21 countries.
Only the Irish and Ukraine teams won three gold medals with Ukraine second overall winning six medals and Bulgaria third with a gold, two silver and a bronze medal. England earned one bronze medal.
Seven Irish medals in all by the banks of the Adriatic; it hasn’t been a bad year in the ring for Irish boxing. The gold medals from Broadhurst, Kellie Harrington at lightweight and middleweight Aoife O’Rourke confirmed those three women as being at the very top echelons of world boxing.
Considering that Aoife’s younger sister, 20-year-old Lisa who won the world championship earlier this year in Istanbul, did not travel because of a thumb injury, the coaching staff have significant raw material looking towards Paris 2024 and the fraught qualification trail.
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That Caitlin Fryers at 22 was able to box her way to a light flyweight final in her first European Championships and take home a silver medal and Christina Desmond, similarly, coming so close to gold just losing out on a split decision to Armenia in the light middleweight category and there is plenty to feel expectant about in this Irish team.
If not already, Westport’s Shannon Sweeney is also on her way to becoming a Mayo darling at the minimum weight. Her bronze medal will do a lot to carry her hopes forward over the next 18 months, while Michaela Walsh came as close as ever to upsetting the competition narrative in the featherweight division. She lost to Tokyo bronze medalist and World Championship silver medalist Irma Testa in a split decision, the tall Italian a regular hurdle for the Belfast boxer.
If there is a comma to be put on this year’s international campaign, it should come after the name of Broadhurst, who ended her year by defeating Mariia Bova in the 70kg. The European title comes to her after winning in the exacting arenas of both World and Commonwealth Games. She won every significant trophy she could this year and the manner in which she beat her Ukraine opponent in Budva puts the 25-year-old talent from Dundalk in the crosshairs of every boxer in the light welterweight division with eyes on the Olympic Games.
Harrington, too, calmly plotted her way past Lenka Bernadova of the Czech Republic. Once the Irish Olympic champion had the southpaw worked out, Bernadova had little left, with Harrington skillfully patient and controlled and going about her business in a way that makes it look all so easy.
The middleweight win was O’Rourke’s second European title, her first coming in 2019, when she won in Spain. In all Ireland’s was a team success, unlikely to be equalled again.