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Flying the flag

Joe Ward qualifies for Rio Olympics after advancing to World Championship final

He becomes the second Irishman to go through to the finals.

Ciarán Gallagher reports from Doha

IRELAND HAVE TWO fighters through to the finals of the World Championships for the first time in history after light-heavyweight Joe Ward’s semi-final victory, which also secures his place at the Rio Olympics next year.

The Moate native claimed a 3-0 unanimous decision semi-final victory over Ishod Rasulov of Uzbekistan at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena in Doha, which secures at least a silver medal.

The 21-year-old qualifies for the Olympics as both 81kg finalists are awarded a place at the Rio Games.

Ward will fight two-time world champ Julio la Cruz in the final on Thursday, the Cuban who defeated the Irishman in the 2013 World semi-final.

“It’s a massive win after the ups and downs I had in my career, missing out on London [2012 Olympic Games], then I tried to go the APB route, I did okay at that but got pipped at the post a few times,” said Ward immediately after his win.

“A lot of people wrote me off in a way, but I knew myself I’d stick with it. Eddie Bolger [coach] stuck with me, my family at home, my kids and my girlfriend motivated me to keep going and I got what I wanted. That’s my dream, to go to an Olympic Games and I’ve got a World silver medal,” added Ward, who followed the lead of Michael Conlan who booked his final spot with a win over Dzmitry Asanau of Belarus on Sunday night, with the pair becoming the second and third Irishmen to reach senior World deciders following Jason Quigley’s 2013 silver-medal campaign.

Conlan competes in his final on Wednesday night, with the Belfast bantamweight taking on Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and the Irish captain is a heavy favourite to claim Ireland’s first ever gold at the men’s tournament.

Portlaoise middleweight Michael O’Reilly will also definitely qualify for the Olympics if he wins a third-place box-off against Hosam Abdin of Egypt on Wednesday night.

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