With the draw made and the boxers poised, now is a good time to look at how our guys, and gal, are positioned in their hopes of Olympic glory. Funny, as I think of how the team will get on I can’t help think how, even among the camp, we always say that someone we think will do well won’t, and someone will surprise you and medal.
Paddy Barnes (3-1 joint-favourite with bookmakers)
Mens – 49kg
Coming into Rio with two Olympic bronze medals, and as undefeated WSB Champion, Paddy is considered the best in his division, a claim I believe to be very true. The experience of two Olympic Games, coupled with Paddy’s relentless, destructive manner in a new aggressive style of boxing, places Paddy as the guy to beat in the 49kg class. In making it to the final Paddy’s main threats could be Philippines’ Rogen Ladon and Cuban World Champion Joahnys Argilagos. Paddy has stated his confidence in winning gold and if he can continually make the weight over the tournament, without losing too much energy, power or stamina, I think Paddy is on track to becoming our first male Olympic Champion in 24 years.
Brendan Irvine (33-1)
Mens – 52kg
As one of our least experienced team members Brendan’s 25/1 odds can be considered just. In 2015, Brendan reached the top 8 of the 49kg category but has since moved up and showed his class in qualifying at the higher weight. Not long turned 20, Brendan’s focus will be on performing well. His route to Olympic glory is far from an easy one and he first meets Shakhobidin Zoirov from the boxing stronghold of Uzbekistan. A successful bout here leaves Brendan in line to meet USA number 8 seed and Azerbaijan number 1 seed in later rounds.
Michael Conlan (100-30)
Mens – 56kg
Probably the most vocal of the Irish boxers in his hopes of a gold medal, Conlan has been demoted from favourite in his division to third spot behind his London conqueror Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba and USA teenage sensation Shakur Stevenson. Rejoining the national squad after his WSB stint, Michael soon became European and World Champion. His inclusion in squad training this year will have his skills honed perfectly in time for Rio. His ability to compete as a boxer or fighter at all distances, coupled with his ambidexterity and confidence, makes Mick my favourite to win the gold but his threats along the way for me include Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in the quarter-final and Stevenson in the semi-final.
David Oliver Joyce (25-1)
Mens – 60kg
As a seasoned boxer who has had to bide his time in hope of representing Ireland at the Olympic Games, Davey will fear nobody in his division. His aggressive style will suit the scoring system if he can pin his opponents, but the draw has given Davey a tough task. He will face the World Champion and bookies favourite, Azerbaijan’s Albert Selimov, if he can get through his first fight against Andrique Allisop of the Seychelles. Davey has trained against Selimov in recent months and I’m sure he will be relishing the chance to upset the odds and give it his all.
Steven Donnelly (40-1)
Mens – 69kg
Following a long period of inactivity in 2015, I considered Steven’s odds to be longer. The fact that Steven will box in Rio with a hand surgery, lead my assessment of his form to be below that which won him the 2014 national title and Commonwealth bronze. However, following an improved final home camp and reports from inside the Rio training base, I will not be writing off Steven as a medal hope in a weight that is open to numerous potential medal winners. His draw has him facing Algeria and, potentially, Mongolia or Argentina in order to make the top eight. This is a very attainable ask, before meeting the big guns for an Olympic medal and facing either Russia’s Andrei Zamkovoi, a silver medalist from London, or Morocco’s World Champion Mohammed Rabii.
Michael O’Reilly (8-1)
Mens – 75kg
As world bronze medallist and ranked as world number two at the start of this year, if everything had gone smoothly, O’Reilly would have been considered a hot medal prospect in Rio and wouldn't have feared anybody in his division. His natural ability to avoid punches and employing an unorthodox style of punching gave him a great chance of bringing home a medal. If Michael is allowed compete, he will be hoping that some lacklustre performances in qualification and broken spells of squad training will not interfere with his performances. His appeal against a positive drugs test was lodged this afternoon (Sunday).
Joe Ward (9-1)
Mens – 81kg
Having won medals in every major tournament, Joe Ward will hope to complete the collection in Rio by bringing home an Olympic medal. One of the bookies’ favourites, behind Cuban wizard Julio Cesar La Cruz, Joe has suffered a curious lay of the land in the seeding procedure. Seeded only number 4, Joe will find himself first facing the winner of Germany and Ecuador, before a potential encounter with his APB conqueror, France’s Mathieu Bauderlique. If he reaches the semi-final, Joe has the daunting task of facing Cuba and he will be hoping it can be third time lucky against La Cruz.
Katie Taylor (5-6)
Womens – 60kg
As reigning champion and ranked world number 1, Katie is favourite for gold again. However, her chances have seemingly lessened in recent months after two shock defeats to second and third favourites, Azerbaijan’s Alekseevna and Mosselly of France. Katie’s wealth of experience will be needed in Rio and it may well be down to whether she can cope with the internal mental battle she will no doubt confront. First in the firing line for her will be Finland or Brazil, before Katie’s chance at vengeance is realised in the semi-final where she could encounter Azerbaijan’s Yana Alekseevna. I believe Katie’s character, beliefs and her personal strength are strong enough for the challenge and I will back her to gold, yet again.