Former amateur Eric Donovan and Darren O'Neill boxing stars believe it’s premature to panic over the prospects of Irish fighters at next year’s Olympics, but Donovan issued a call for clarification on how boxers will be selected for the upcoming qualifiers for Tokyo 2020.

Donovan and O’Neill - both latecomers to the paid ranks - will box in different bouts on the same card at the Devenish in Belfast on 25 October.

However, it was the amateur game which occupied their minds when they spoke to RTÉ Sport to reflect on the fortunes of the Ireland team at the ongoing World Championships in Russia.

Irish interest ended with European bantamweight champion Kurt Walker's defeat at the hands of Tsendbaatar Erdenebat of Mongolia, but Donovan told listeners of RTÉ 2FM’s Game On that Ireland’s failure to secure a medal for the first time since 2007 shouldn’t cause immediate alarm.

"There wasn't a lot of expectation on the team that travelled out to the World Championships," Donovan said.

"Kurt Walker probably had the most expectation on his shoulders.

"This year he won the European gold medal. But it is a very difficult competition and, of the three majors – the Olympic, European and World – the World has been the most difficult for us to medal at.

"Kurt Walker had a great tournament. He got to a quarter-final and lost to a Mongolian who is a very strong fighter, ranked number three in the world, and he could possibly go on and win the gold medal. So, he was just unlucky with the draw."

Of greater concern to the Athy native is the confusion and lack of clarity that has surrounded the recent selection process for the Ireland team.

While Dean Gardiner and Gabrial Dossen missed the trip to Russia through injury, four of their fellow national champions were overlooked for selection.

It leaves a lot question marks over future selection processes

"There are a few eyebrows being raised around Irish boxing with the selection process," Donovan conceded.  

"Six elite champions – that’s six number ones in Ireland – weren’t on the team. There’s a training process for selection up in Abbotstown in the high performance unit and Bernard Dunne has full autonomy over the selection of the team.

"He picked these guys based on what he’s seen probably in the gym, week in, week out, but it just leaves a lot question marks over future selection processes.

"What’s going to happen if you win the national championships? Does that still mean you’re not going to be selected to represent Ireland?  

"With the 2020 Olympic qualifiers fast approaching, a lot of people are looking for a bit more clarification on the selection process."  

O’Neill believes Irish boxing now faces a "transition period", with so many stars of the amateur game having opted to turn pro over the last three years.

"We have had a bit of a transition period after the Rio fallout," he said.  

"There are new boxers coming through and they have been doing well and you’d be hoping they will do well in Tokyo next year.

"Traditionally, we have done well in the qualifiers, particularly the latter stages. You look back to London, Paddy Barnes, for example, didn’t qualify first time around.

"In Beijing, Darren Sutherland and Kenny Egan both qualified at the last bite of the apple. Qualifying is always the hardest part.

"You don’t need to be worrying too far out from the Games. Obviously, the Worlds are fantastic preparation and one you’d love to medal at, but you have to look at the longer game.

"You have to look at the qualifiers which aren’t on until the new year and guys will be looking to peak for then."