Ireland's boxers set off on the medal trail with Olympic qualification up for grabs

Billy Walsh has brought a seven-strong team to Doha for the AIBA World Championships, which begin today.

Updated at 14.55

IRELAND HAVE SENT a seven-strong team to the World Championships in Doha,  Qatar, with Olympic qualification on the line as well as prestigious medals.

Despite the success of Irish boxing’s High Performance Unit in recent years, only one Irish male (Jason Quigley) has ever reached a World final in what many consider to be the toughest competition there is.

Here’s the team and what they have to do to get to Rio.

49kg (light-flyweight): Brendan Irvine

Brendan Irvine with his silver medal Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

With Paddy Barnes already qualified for Rio, Irvine must reach the World final in order to become eligible for Olympic selection and potentially force a box-off with Barnes so he faces a massive task.

The 19-year-old Belfast light-flyweight is one of three Irish men boxing on Tuesday evening, taking on Nico Hernandez of the USA.

56kg (bantamweight): Michael Conlan

Michael Conlan celebrates winning a gold medal Kostadin Andonov / INPHO Kostadin Andonov / INPHO / INPHO

Already qualified for Rio through the World Series of Boxing, Conlan is aiming to create history in Doha by becoming the first Irish boxer to win senior medals at the Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth Championships.

The captain of the team, reigning European champ Conlan is a 7/4 favourite with the bookies to claim gold and has received a bye to the round of 16.

60kg (lightweight): Seán McComb

Sean McComb with his bronze medal Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

The Belfast lightweight recently made headlines when apprehending two muggers in separate incidents in his native Belfast and he must reach the final or win a third-place box-off to book a ticket for Rio.

After showing real signs of maturity at the European Games during the summer, he is a live darkhorse.

64kg (light-welterweight): Dean Walsh

Dean Walsh celebrates with his bronze medal Kostadin Andonov / INPHO Kostadin Andonov / INPHO / INPHO

Nephew of head coach Billy, the 21-year-old faces the same task as McComb in finishing in the top three.

Walsh qualified for the Worlds thanks to his bronze medal at the European Championships and has battled a niggling hand problem to show real improvement at senior international level. He takes on Luis Dian Arcon of Venezuela on Tuesday.

69kg (welterweight): Adam Nolan

Adam Nolan celebratesSource: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The London 2012 Olympian is another who needs a top-three finish to book an Olympic spot.

A Wexford native based in Bray, Nolan claimed gold at the final qualifier for the London 2012 Games and he is one of just three Irish boxers on this team to have competed at a previous edition of the Worlds.

75kg (middleweight): Michael O'Reilly

Michael O'Reilly celebrates after defeating Xaybula Musalov Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

A gold medallist at the European Games this past summer, O'Reilly is a genuine medal contender and he will be fancied to be in the shake-up to claim a top-three spot and a flight to Rio.

He will be out to follow the lead of former amateur colleague Jason Quigley who became the first – and so far only - Irish male boxer to reach a World senior final.

The draw has been tough on him, though, pitting O’Reilly against Ukraine’s Valerii Kharlamov in his opener on Tuesday.

81kg (light-heavyweight): Joe Ward

Joe Ward is declared the winner Kostadin Andonov / INPHO Kostadin Andonov / INPHO / INPHO

While he must reach the World final if he is to reach Rio, Ward has momentum coming off the back of his gold medal campaign at the European Championships.

That was his second senior title at European level having also claimed gold in 2011. Often accused of underperforming at critical times, he silenced many naysayers by taking bronze at the 2013 World Championships in Almaty.

If two European titles and a World bronze at the age of 21 is underperforming, we’d like to know what he’ll do if he finds consistency at these championships. Received a bye and doesn’t fight until Friday.

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