Kellie Harrington, Michaela Walsh and Dean Clancy qualify for Olympic Games

Jack Marley and Aoife O’Rourke one win away from qualifying on day of mixed fortunes for Irish fighters

Ireland might have expected a better return from seven possible Olympic qualifying bouts at the European Games in Poland on Wednesday. Three boxers, Kellie Harrington, Michaela Walsh and Dean Clancy all went through to win bronze medals at least and book a ticket to Paris next summer. But Amy Broadhurst, Daina Moorehouse, Jennifer Lehane and Kelyn Cassidy lost their quarter-final bouts and must wait for another opportunity to qualify next year.

Heavyweight Dubliner Jack Marley also won his contest against Croatia’s Mark Calic for a bronze medal at least but needs a semi-final win for Olympic qualification. Aoife O’Rourke, in a similar position to Marley, beat Sweden’s Nelli Holgersson in her middleweight bout but also needs a semi-final win on Friday to make it to France next summer.

It was Harrington who started off the successes for Ireland at 60kg, when she won on a split decision over Agnes Alexiusson from Sweden. Controlled from the beginning, Harrington’s no fuss policy from behind the left jab squeezed out a 3-2 win in the first round and another 3-2 in the second.

More aggressive in the third, the Swede knew she needed something big to retrieve the bout. But Harrington continued to fight with experience and poise, the judges awarding it to her on a split 4-1 decision.


She now has an opportunity to be the first boxer male or female to successfully defend the Olympic title she won in Tokyo 2020. Katie Taylor, who won lightweight gold at London 2012 didn’t manage a second medal four years later at Rio 2016.

“I’m on cloud nine right now. I know that my face doesn’t say I’m overjoyed, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Harrington. “To come back after my hand being raised it’s just been incredible. To go home now and to celebrate with my small circle; with my family, with [wife] Mandy, I just can’t wait.

“Now I’m just going for the next fight and wherever that takes me it takes me. The main thing is I’m back enjoying it again and hopefully I’m on the plane to Paris. That was the goal coming out here. Now the goalposts move a little bit and I’m in for silver and if that happens it happens.”

Not unlike Harrington, Walsh fought a measured fight, keeping her distance and using the ring from behind her left jab in the 57kg bout. There was little opponent Melissa Mortensen could do as Walsh circled the ring flicking out scoring shots and keeping her discipline tight.

Winning the first round 4-1 and the second 5-0 had the Belfast woman in a towering position going into the third. Again, intelligently keeping out of trouble and forcing the Dane into a standing count, all five judges saw it in Ireland’s favour with a unanimous decision.

Clancy, fighting at 63.5kg, also earned a unanimous decision over Italy’s Gianlugi Malanga. Again the 21-year-old went out offensively and pushed his southpaw opponent back from the start of the first round.

In a hugely confident performance, Clancy won the first round 4-1. Building from there he then began hitting with the cleaner shots and moving even better in a more dominant second round. The judges saw it that way too, scoring it 5-0.

In the third round a hard left hook knocked the mouth guard from the Italian’s mouth and Clancy’s arm went up in the air. Malanga was then given a standing count towards the end in what was in the end a one-sided win for the Sligo boxer.

“It was hard to keep my cool in the corner,” said Clancy, who dedicated the win to his grandfather who was buried on Wednesday. “I still had three minutes and it’s boxing, you know at the end of the day one punch can change it all. So I just went and enjoyed it, and I still won that round.

“I’m still in the competition. Now it’s change that colour, get that silver or gold. I’ve one goal of mine done. The pressure is off. As I say when I’m enjoying my boxing I’m a dangerous fighter.”

Daina Moorehouse perhaps got the most puzzling decision of the day, which went against her fighting in the 50kg division, while Broadhurst and Cassidy also went from strong early starts in their bouts to losing the fight in poor third rounds. Broadhurst, a world champion in the lower weight division, has had to move up to an Olympic weight and was also beaten in the Irish championships earlier this year.

Moorehouse won the first round 3-2 and the second by the same score. In another tight third round the judges scored it 4-1 against the Irish boxer with French opponent Wassila Lkhadiri awarded the bout, Irish coach Zaur Antia visibly showing his frustration with the scoring.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times