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Irish women led by Katie Taylor have arrived in Jeju for 2014 World's  November 15-24th
by Michael O'Neill
October 31,  2014


(OCT 31)  Ireland’s four strong team for the forthcoming 8th Edition of the AIBA Women’s Elite World championships which take place at the Halla Gymnasium in Jeju Island, South Korea (Nov.15/24th),have arrived in Jeju, where Olympic champion Katie Taylor will be keen to retain her 60kg World title for a record fifth year in a row. Once more her main challenger would appear to be Russia’s Sofya Ochigava.

The Irish team - led by the four time World, five times European and current Olympic champion (60kg), Taylor - includes the recent 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Belfast’s Michaela Walsh, Joanne Lambe from Carrickmacross, County Monaghan and Dublin City University student, 21 years old Clare Grace who boxes out of the Callan BC in County Kilkenny.

Joanne Lambe ,32, the Irish representative at 57kg, lives in Stonetown, a townland in the countryside just outside Dundalk. She is a fine athlete too and recently having returned to athletics to further improve her fitness levels, she won a County Louth Cross Country title at her first attempt and several years after winning numerous titles in Irish athletics including County, Leinster Provincial and All Ireland titles at different grade.

Joanne Lambe, Michaela Walsh and Claire Grace, pictured below with team manager Anna Moore and coach Gerry Storey at Dublin airport this morning,
before teaming up with Katie Taylor and Irish coaches Pete Taylor and Zuar Antia.

She was once Ireland’s no 1 Junior at Cross Country and also Athlete of the Year – indeed she was a member of the Irish team that competed against England’s Mo Farah, who has since won both World and Olympics golds at the sport inc London 2012.

So what does she do when not boxing or training? She told WBAN : “ I am a mental health support worker. I work with people who have a mental health diagnosis - their tenancy might be at risk, they might be struggling to cope, isolated or experiencing a crisis. I offer my clients one-to-one support, regular home visits, promotion of mental health recovery and social inclusion.

I am employed by HAIL Housing in Dublin. HAIL have being amazing – they have being so supportive of my boxing. They have always accommodated my requests for time off to pursue my boxing dream. Without this support I would not be able to do what I do. I do not get funding or sponsorship so I need to work full-time to live “.

So how did you get involved in boxing, Joanne?

“I was living in the UK at the time and I joined Steve Bendall’s gym down in Bournemouth. I was hooked from the start. Steve trained us hard and I loved the intensity of the training. I loved the atmosphere and camaraderie in the gym. I trained here 2-3 times a week for about 2 years – I was the only girl in a gym full of men and I trained and sparred with the guys.”

“In 2011 I moved back to Ireland and immediately looked for a new gym. I joined Carrickmacross Boxing Club in the summer of 2011. Christina and Frick McMahon who are my coaches from Carrickmacross BC leave no stone unturned - they are 100% committed and dedicated to their boxers. Personally they have given me the self-belief to step into the ring in the first place and they have encouraged me to continually strive to improve and ask more of myself. I would not be where I am without their input”.

Joanne’s favourite boxer- and inspiration - is another Monaghan man, former World champion and himself an Olympian, Barry McGuigan.

“He was one of the best boxers of his generation, having to overcome very difficult circumstances to pursue his sport. Barry McGuigan was probably the first boxer I ever heard of – he was so popular in Ireland. Also he is a Monaghan man – and I fight out of a Monaghan club….so there is that connection too!

In Jeju, the Irish coaches will include Zuari Antia, Peter Taylor and Gerry Storey but there are others too that Joanne speaks very highly of :

“Coaches like Gerry (Storey), John McCormack, Anita Just, Antoinette Fay, Liam Brereton and Damien Walsh who give up their time week in and week out to run the women’s squad training up in the National Stadium in Dublin. These people also give so much to help develop female boxing in Ireland”

Clare Grace, the 20 years old, who is trained by famed Irish trainer, Jimmy Walsh at the Callan BC in County Kilkenny is representing her country at a World championships for the first time. The Dublin City University student, who has no funding, has recently undertaken important exams in Ireland in between training for the world’s and taking part time work to fund her boxing activities.

This will be her biggest international tournament to date for the Kilkenny woman who also excels at other sports and has two All-Ireland handball titles to her credit – she won a European Union bronze medal in Hungary earlier this year losing out to England’s Stacey Copeland at the semi-final stage. The pair could meet again in Jeju.

At this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Michaela Walsh was ‘devastated’ when she ‘lost’ to England’s Olympic champion, Nicola Adams in the 51kg final. Indeed on that occasion more than one of the watching Press corps agreed that Walsh’s performance that day deserved Gold but the history books will always show that Adams won 2:1 and Walsh had to be content with the silver.

A year earlier, then fighting at 57kg, Holy Family GG boxer, Walsh had defeated Joanne Lambe to take the Irish Elite title. Now they both dare to dream of a possible medal at the forthcoming World’s in Jeju. How times have changed and now it is Lambe fighting at 57kg with Walsh in the 51kg Olympic classification.

As I saw when covering the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, not only against Olympic champion (51kg) Nicola Adams but also in her semi-final against India’s no. 1, Pinki Rana, Walsh indeed showed great future promise. She told WBAN:

“I thought I showed just what I could do at the Commonwealth’s and indeed my (Northern Ireland) coach John Conlan felt I did enough to win the bout against Nicola Adams. My main achievements to date have been a World bronze medallist, European Silver medallist (Youths) and European Union Bronze medallist. At home I have 9 Irish titles of which 4 are at senior level. I also have around 7 Ulster titles and 7 Antrim titles.”

“Last year I was ranked world number 11 at AIBA senior level at 57kg but since then I have moved down to the Olympic weight category 51kg. I also beat the (then) world number 2 last year Lisa Whiteside. My home club is Holy Family Golden Gloves. I am trained by Gerry Storey Senior, Gerry Storey Junior and also my own father Damien Walsh.

Without these men I would not be where I am today. They all play a huge role in my life and help me succeed. I also have a younger brother who is also Irish Champion, he trains along with me and pushes me to my highest limits. My family are very supportive of me boxing and are always behind me 100% and there is nothing I love better than making them proud.

I don't get any funding or any sponsors for this, I'm at boxing full time and haven't got time to work as my training schedule takes up most of my time. It would be highly appreciated if I could get a sponsor coming up to these major competitions.

If anyone is willing to sponsor me or knows anyone who would I would get logos and names put on my t-shirt so you would get plenty of TV and media coverage! Anyone with any info get in contact with me or email me (michaelaw05@hotmail.com) just a bit of help is all I’m asking ☺ thanks! #TheRoadToGold .” Well for Michaela a more immediate target is to qualify for the 2015 World’s and Olympic qualifier, the first step on the ‘Road to Rio’.

Katie Taylor needs no introduction to boxing fans, or to WBAN readers but she will be desperately keen to take that fifth 60kg title in a row title in Jeju. Though the Championships do not commence until 14th November, the Irish women, who are sponsored by Quik Park of Dublin Airport, will be one of the first countries to arrive in South Korea as they plan a week long training camp with a Korean squad which includes Asian Games silver medallist Ji Park at 60kg.

The first of Katie’s five world titles came at the Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi, India where Katie won five bouts in a row to take the 60-kg Gold Medal. As WBAN reported at the time on November 18, 2006 she stopped US champion Caroline Barry by a 16-1 score on the 15 point mercy rule in the first round. On November 19 she beat Eva Wahlström of Finland, this bout being stopped at 19-4 on the 15 point mercy rule in the second round.

On November 21 in the quarter-final the Bray 19 years old beat Florina Popa of Romania 20-5, also on the 15 point mercy rule. On November 22 in the semi-final Katie defeated the defending world champion Tatiana Chalaya of Chechnya for the second straight time, by an impressive 23-6 margin (the mercy rule was not invoked and the bout went the distance). Tatiana appeared wary of Katie after losing to her in the European Championship final and did not commit herself much, allowing a patient and methodical Taylor to pile up points.

On November 23, 2006 Katie faced Annabella Farias of Argentina in the 60-kg final. Farias, who had defeated 2005 Asian champion Mitchel Martinez of the Philippines by an 18-13 margin in the other semi-final, was an unknown quantity to Taylor, but Farias had also defeated 2006 Venus Cup winner Lucie Bertaud of France on her way to their showdown in the world final. In a boxing clinic, Katie worked behind her trade-mark jab, put textbook combinations together and caught her opponent with occasional big shots to defeat Annabella by a 31-14 margin over the full three rounds.(Farias of course is better known these days as the world Professional champion.

Taylor declared “I am absolutely thrilled with the win. I came out here to win a medal and it is a dream come true for me. It has been a great week and I am very proud to have represented my country at these championships.”

Gary Keegan, who headed the High Performance Program in which Taylor participates, said "She is not only a wonderful talent, but she has the temperament to match it. It has been a pleasure to watch her work with the High Performance squad and her father, Pete, has been a key player as well as an inspirational figure in all her performances. Katie really was magnificent in India. I thought that her semi-final win over the Russian world champion was simply brilliant as was her win in today’s today ... This achievement is up there with all the great moments in Irish sport and she totally deserves this as she has worked incredibly hard over the last few years. We are absolutely thrilled with this win."

Taylor arrived in Jeju this morning, with her Irish colleagues and coaches ( inc.Dad ,Peter) and could perhaps also have been remembering another 31 October Halloween night when the then 15 years old from Bray ‘gloved off’ against her friend, 16 years old, Alanna Audley at the National Stadium in Dublin, the occasion being the first ever women’s ‘amateur’ boxing bout in Ireland. Taylor won that evening (23:12) and the two have been close friends ever since.

In this brief interview, her first ever, a very quiet and shy, Katie talks about her love of the sport and Coach/Dad Peter discusses the possibility of future medals in boxing for his daughter.

http://oldportal.euscreen.eu/play.jsp?id=EUS_DAF397C6B09146C3969237E5E2606C48  © RTE Sport/European Union
http://www.rte.ie/sport/player/1018/369680/  Michaela Walsh v Joanne Lambe 2013 IABA final ©: RTE Sport/IABA

and here on Halloween 2014 – on social media -Alanna Audley remembers the day that Irish boxing history was made when as a 16 yrs old she fought her friend Katie from Bray in the first ever women’s amateur boxing bout in Ireland.

Alanna Audley-Murphy @Alanna543

13 years ago 2nyt @KatieTaylor and I made history 2gether being Ireland's 1st officially sanctioned woman's bout #history#friends#girlpower.

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