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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 11 May 2021

Interview: Carruth reflects on Barcelona '92 and predicts golden age

The last man to win boxing gold for Ireland believes the latest qualifiers can surpass the triple medal achievements of Beijing.

Carruth jumps for joy after winning the Gold Medal
Carruth jumps for joy after winning the Gold Medal
Image: Credit: INPHO/James Meehan

THE IMAGES OF RTÉ reporter Marty Morrissey enveloped in a family crush at the Carruth household in 1992 are still vivid.

When Ronnie Delaney captured the country’s previous gold medal, at the Melbourne games in 1956, the pictures were in colour but did not appear on the national broadcaster. RTÉ was only established five years later.

But Morrissey was present with Austin and Joan Carruth as they cheered on their son, Michael to a gold medal as he defeated fancied Cuban welterweight, Juan Hernandez Sierra. The emotional commentary of Jimmy Magee and Mick Dowling provided the thrilling soundtrack to a massive moment in Irish sporting history.

Two decades after capturing ‘The Holy Grail’, Carruth is heavily involved in promoting boxing across the country and also works with the Dublin senior hurling team.

He believes that the time has come for new contenders to stake their claim for boxing gold. “It has been 20 years since I won at the Olympic Games,” Carruth told TheScore. “We need to be winning again, either through the male or female version.”

From starstruck to star striking

As promising southpaw of 21, Carruth entered his first Olympics in South Korea with high hopes, only to lose by knockout to Sweden’s George Scott. He said, “Barcelona was my second Olympic games. I had made a dog’s dinner out of my first one in Seoul (in 1988) and got the preparation wrong.

“The lights came on and I got distracted. I learned not to be a supporter and to forget about getting pictures with sports stars and famous people.”

Carruth qualified for Barcelona at the last moment possible when he won a bout in Italy. He feels that the Irish mentality of winning when needs be put him in a positive frame of mind entering the games. He proclaimed:

“I was in much better shape in 1992 and fancied my chances of going far. Winning a medal of any colour was my goal but getting that gold medal only came into focus as the tournament went on.”

“We had a good squad out there and lads like Paul Griffin and Paul Douglas were in with a genuine chance of getting medals. Griffin was unlucky to get his eyebrow cut in the quarter-final. Wayne came so close but the silver was a great achievement.”

Carruth now divides his time between boxing and hurling commitments.
Credit: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

The Drimnagh native believes that the establishment of a High Performance programme, under head coach Billy Walsh, has made Ireland genuine medal threats for the foreseeable future.

“I am hoping that we can get a squad of eight boxers qualified for London. Beijing proved that our achievements in Barcelona were not a fluke and that we can compete with the best. (This time) I believe that we have a better squad than we had in Beijing and anything other than taking home a gold medal would be a failure.”

“30 years ago if you drew an Irish boxer you’d think ‘Ah, they’re all a bunch of pissheads’. Now, we’re in the club that nobody wants. No-one wants to draw an Irish boxer because they know we have gone professional, high performance and have produced medals.”

You have to be a bit mad

Carruth divides his time between his Development Officer duties with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association and providing massage therapy and boxing training to the Dublin hurlers. He commented, “I’m loving it. We had a good result against Tipperary (recently) and were unlucky against Kilkenny and Cork in the games before that.”

He calls the Dublin manager Anthony Daly ‘a gas ticket’ who can turn on his serious face when the appropriate time comes. “You have to be a bit mad to be a boxer and a hurler.”

With the price of gold edging up on a daily basis, Carruth remarks that his medal, no a 20-year vintage, is resting in a bank. “The way things are going,” he jokes, “maybe I should take it out.”

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