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Explained: The Current Crisis In Irish Boxing

Explained: The Current Crisis In Irish Boxing
By Gavin Cooney
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A crisis is enveloping the Irish Amateur Boxing Association, and as is often the case, it's difficulty to understand borders on the arcane. Here is an explanation of what is happening:

What is the current crisis?

Sport Ireland are threatening to cut the funding to the IABA if they continue to fail to implement the recommendations Sport Ireland made to the Association after the Rio Olympics.

After the disappointing performance by Irish boxers, Sport Ireland cut funding by €200,000 and recommended a number of structural changes to the organisation.

This included the appointment of an official High-Performance Director, who would have complete autonomy over the selection of fighters for competitions. Billy Walsh had been performing that role up to his leaving the organisation in 2015, but had not been given the official title, meaning that the role had not been officially filled since Gary Keegan's stepping down after the 2008 Olympics.

In April, Bernard Dunne was appointed to that position.

Two incidents this month have, in the opinion of Sport Ireland, undermined Dunne's position, and Sport Ireland believe that they fail to comply with the desire of the funding body to give Dunne autonomy over team selection.

John Treacy of Sport Ireland sent a letter to the IABA's CEO, Fergal Carruth. The letter stated that the IABA is "facing a crisis arising from recommendations of the Performance Director not being accepted by Central Council".


There were two issues this month that led to Treacy sending the letter.

The first was the failure of the IABA's Central Council to ratify Dunne as the team manager at next month's European Championships in Ukraine. Instead, they chose Gerry O'Mahony of the Munster council.

The second is the identity of the super heavyweight boxer representing Ireland at the European games.


Two names were put forward by Dunne for that position: current Elite champion Martin Keenan, and former Elite champion Dean Gardiner. The Central Council selected Gardiner, but Dunne later proposed a box-off between both boxers to decide who goes to the games. The Central Council were unwilling to change their initial decisions.

What did the Central Council not recognise all of Dunne's decisions? 

The above issues are a manifestation of the deep split that is currently affecting the IABA at board level.

The IABA currently have two members claiming to be chairman: Joe Christle, and David O'Brien.


Christle is the incumbent, but in March, five members of the board voted for David O'Brien to replace him as chairman. Christle disputes this on the basis that he believes his term is not up. O'Brien, and those supporting him, believe Christle's term has expired, and as Kevin Byrne of The Irish Sun reported last night on Newstalk's Off the Ball, O'Brien is calling for Christle and Carruth to step down.

The split remains unresolved, and both sides are seeking legal advice.

The appointment of Dunne came during a period outside the chairmanship of Christle, so therefore those supporting O'Brien believe his appointment to be invalid, as there was not a proper interview process involving the man they believe to be the chairman. Both sides have different visions of how the organisation should operate, and both believe that they are acting in the best interests of Irish boxing.


Christle, along with CEO Fergal Carruth, are in favour of working with Bernard Dunne and the High-Performance Director under the terms recommended by Sport Ireland, as they believe this is in the best interest of Irish boxing. Those supporting O'Brien would prefer to retain their current control over team selection, for the same reason.

What happens next?

The impasse around Dunne will not be resolved until there is unity among the board of directors, and a single recognised chairman is approved.

Representatives of both sides were due to meet last night with the Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan, but that fell through as IABA president Pat Ryan failed to attend, citing a family commitment. Ryan did attend a meeting rescheduled for the following morning, Wednesday, and talks are ongoing.


Speaking to RTE Radio, John Treacy of Sport Ireland warned the IABA that they may face a further cut in funding if the restructures recommended by Sport Ireland are not introduced by June 30th.

That seems unlikely to happen while the current impasse remains ongoing.

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