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Ireland's boxers handed extremely tough draws in Tokyo

Though things landed nicely for Kellie Harrington and Aidan Walsh, their team-mates will all face unenviable opposition in their opening bouts.

Michaela Walsh in action against Irma Testa in the final of Olympic qualification.
Michaela Walsh in action against Irma Testa in the final of Olympic qualification.
Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

THOUGH FOUR OF them wound up receiving byes into the last 16s of their respective divisions, Ireland’s boxers were for the most part dealt unenviable draws in Tokyo ahead of first bell at the Olympics this weekend.

Kellie Harrington, arguably the nation’s leading medal hope across all sports outside of rowing, was already through to the second round as top seed at 60kg and was given arguably the most straightforward path of the boxers. Team-mate Michaela Walsh, meanwhile, the fourth seed at 57kg, would have been equally a leading contender to medal at the Games but may well meet at the first hurdle the same woman to whom she lost in the final of the Olympic qualification tournament.

Lisburn featherweight (57kg) Kurt Walker gets the Irish team under way in the wee hours of Saturday morning. The 2019 European champion begins in the Round of 32 against Jose Quiles Brotons, a Spaniard who, like Walker, took bronze home from the 2017 Europeans.

Dublin light-heavyweight (81kg) Emmet Brennan will be up against it to extend his epic Olympic tale: he’ll face formidable Uzbek Dilshodbek Ruzmetov, a silver medallist at the last World Championships and the reigning Asian champ, in the Round of 32 on Sunday.

Team captain Brendan Irvine is the only boxer in the team with past Olympic experience and the Belfast flyweight (52kg) will require that and more on Monday when he squares off with Filipino Carlo Paalam, a 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist, in his opener.

Michaela Walsh will be in action later that same morning. The Belfast feather will face either Italy’s Irma Testa — against whom she has both won and lost this year — or her 2019 World Championship conqueror, Liudmilla Vorontsova of Russia, for a place in the last eight.

Her younger brother Aidan Walsh, however, will fancy his chances of making a dent in the competition — even to the point of medalling: the awkward welterweight (69kg) received a stroke of fortune in the shape of a random bye into the last 16 where he will face either Eswatini’s Thabiso Dlamini or Cameroonian Albert Mengue Ayissi early on Tuesday morning. A win for Walsh would tee up a medal bout versus either Jordan, Mauritius or Canada, against any of whose competitors he may be favoured.

Roscommon middleweight Aoife O’Rourke also received a bye following the withdrawal of Moroccan second seed Khadija El-Mardi but that’s where her luck ended: The 75kg European champion starts on Wednesday against China’s Li Qian, the 2018 World Champion, reigning Asian champion and a Rio 2016 bronze medallist.

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Finally, Dublin lightweight Harrington won’t get her own campaign under way until tomorrow week when she will face either Italian Rebeca Nicoli or Mexican Esmeralda Falcón. Intriguingly, two of Harrington’s fellow leading medal contenders at 60kg, Maiva Hamadouche and Mira Potkonen, will meet each other in the round of 32, ridding one of Harrington’s rivals from the bidding early.

Draw for Ireland’s boxers at Tokyo Olympics

Men’s 57kg Round of 32: Kurt Walker (Canal) vs Jose Quiles Brotons (Spain), Saturday 4:03am
Men’s 81kg Round of 32: Emmet Brennan (Dublin Docklands) v Dilshod Ruzmetov (Uzbekistan), Sunday 12:42pm
Men’s 52kg Round of 32: Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s) v Carlo Paalam (Philippines), Monday 12:03am
Women’s 57kg Last 16: Michaela Walsh (Monkstown Antrim) v Irma Testa (Italy)/Liudmilla Vorontsova (Russia), Monday 6:27am
Men’s 69kg Last 16: Aidan Walsh (Monkstown Antrim) v Thabiso Dlamini (Eswatini)/Albert Mengue Ayissi (Cameroon), Tuesday 3:30am
Women’s 75kg Last 16: Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea) v Li Qian (China), Wednesday, 10:18am
Women’s 60kg Last 16: Kellie Harrington (St Mary’s) v Rebeca Nicoli (Italy)/Esmeralda Falcón (Mexico), Friday 3am

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