Cuts to boxing funding would be ‘a very big mistake’

For Kellie Harrington, this has an all-too-familiar feel. Yet another High-Performance Director – adored and respected by Ireland’s best boxers – walking away from his position, disillusioned by the internal politics of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA).

And as great as the recent medal rush has been, the Olympic champion hopes it’s not something that’s used to “paper over the cracks” with the sport’s national governing body.

“This is something that happens all the time,” said Harrington of the latest controversy. “It’s basically the same s**t, different day. Look at before (the 2016 Olympics in) Rio: we lost Billy (Walsh). It does look like everything is alright (due to the medals) but it’s not. It does need to be addressed once and for all.”

Dunne’s resignation as Director of the High-Performance Unit this month came in the wake of an unsigned SWOT analysis that was highly critical of his performance, which was circulated at board level prior to the Tokyo Olympics last year.

Minister for Sport Jack Chambers described the document as “a disgrace” and said the sport is a “mess”. Dunne’s departure had striking similarities to that of Walsh, who resigned from the same role in 2015 and took a job coaching in the US.

The IABA must now “fully embrace and adopt” the governance reforms recommended in an independent report to avoid “immediate and severe financial consequences,” according to Chambers. Harrington knows that slashing the sport’s funding could spell disaster for Irish amateur boxers.

“I’m hoping the government or someone is going to step in and take control of it so we don’t get to that stage,” she said. “It wouldn’t just be a sad day for Irish boxing. It’d be a very sad day for Irish sport. We have 18 Olympic medals, and (cutting funding) would be a big mistake, a very big mistake, so I’m hoping it doesn’t happen and it can be sorted out.”

Harrington said it was “such a pity” that Dunne walked away as he was “absolutely fantastic” at his job, and she’s hoping for a swift resolution to the current impasse.

“At the end of the day, the only ones that will suffer are the boxers and that’s the truth. Someone is needed here in that position so the coaches can actually do their job and coach the boxers.

“I’ve said to Bernard: ‘Look, your health is your wealth, you’ve got to look after yourself.’ There is only so much a person can take and there’s a fine line in everybody’s head. Once you cross that line, then that’s it. I said to him: ‘Bernard, you do what’s right for you, but we miss you terribly. We’d love you to come back.’”

Harrington said the performance of the Irish boxers at the recent Women’s World Championships in Istanbul was “a real credit to their coaches, to their clubs”.

She was ruled out due to a “recurring niggle” but said “recovery has been going great”.

“It’s just about easing back into it now and making sure I don’t do any damage to any part of my body. That’s where injury comes in, when you jump in at the deep end and think you can pick up where you left off. I’ve been doing yoga as well just to try to get my flexibility and get my head right.

“I’d love to be back sparring by July, hopefully, and I’ve no idea about competition. I don’t think there’s anything going on in the summertime, but the Europeans are in October so that’ll be my goal.”

*Kellie Harrington was unveiled as a Dublin City Council Sports Ambassador in a new three-year deal that will promote the benefits of sport and physical activity in Dublin.

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