Aoife O’Rourke’s birthday bout brings Ireland’s European Games medal tally to 13

Team Ireland win 13 medals across five sports after 13 days of competition

Talk about icing on the cake. Just as Aoife O’Rourke was announced the gold medal winner of her middleweight bout at the third European Games, a chorus of happy birthday rang out around the Nowy Targ Arena in Krakow, the small band of Irish support sweetening the moment and why not.

After 13 days of competition in Poland, a team of 121 Irish athletes competing across 17 sports, O’Rourke helped bring the Team Ireland medal tally to 13: five in boxing, five in kick-boxing, plus one each in athletics, rugby and taekwondo.

The last day also included a first European Games gold medal in kick-boxing for Ireland, Amy Wall winning gold in the full contact 60kg event, later getting some icing on her cake too when chosen as the Irish flag-bearer for the closing ceremony inside the Henryk Reyman stadium.

“Coming out here the plan was to qualify,” O’Rourke said, the qualification for next year’s Paris Olympics already secured with her semi-final win. “But to end up with the gold medal is icing on the cake.


“No one mentioned my birthday all day and the minute my hand was raised they were all singing away, I think they had a bit of a plan in place, it’s a very special birthday for sure and I’m just absolutely delighted.”

O’Rourke, who boxes out of Olympic BC in Galway, impressed to win on a unanimous decision 5-0 over her French counterpart Davina Myrha Michel, and now aged 26 the Roscommon fighter is only coming into her prime. Already a Tokyo Olympian, a two-time European champion in 2019 and 2022, that ticket to Paris will indeed feel sweet, that task also completed by five Irish boxers, all winning medals in the process.

Earlier there were bronze medals for Dean Clancy and Michaela Walsh, silver for heavyweight Jack Marley, notably the first major medal for Ireland in that weight division in almost 80 years, plus gold again for Kellie Harrington.

Wall’s gold medal was the icing on the cake too for a delightful weekend for Irish kick-boxing, winning five medals in all, the 23-year-old securing a dominant victory in the full contact 60kg final, beating Norway’s Mariell Gaassan Straume 3-0.

“It hasn’t really sunk in,” said Wall, a schoolteacher Bray. “I’m sure tomorrow I’ll sit back and reflect. The girl I was fighting is well respected and I knew I’d have it tough, but the game plan worked. I executed everything I needed to.”

Team-mate Nathan Tait claimed silver in the 74kg Point Fighting after losing his final to Hungarian Martin Balint 15-5; Conor McGlinchey was also beaten by his German opponent in the narrowest of margins 16-15 in the 84kg Point Fighting to claim another silver.

On Saturday Nicole Bannon and Jodie Brown secured bronze medals in their respective events.

The Irish men’s Rugby Sevens team last weekend won their tournament, securing the only Olympic berth on offer in Poland, Sarah Lavin earlier winning bronze in the 100m hurdles too, before last night in Stockholm improving her lifetime best to 12.73 seconds when nailing second place.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics