For Kellie Harrington, it feels too familiar. Yet another high performance manager – adored and respected by Ireland’s top boxers – leaving his post, disappointed with the internal politics of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA).
And as big as the recent medal rush has been, the Olympic champion hopes it’s not something that’s being used to ‘cover up the cracks’ with the sport’s national governing body.
“It’s something that happens all the time,” Harrington said of the latest controversy. “It’s basically the same shit, different day. Look before (the 2016 Olympics in) Rio: we lost Billy (Walsh). not the case. It has to be tackled once and for all.”
Dunne’s resignation as head of the high performance unit this month came following a highly critical unsigned SWOT analysis of his performance, which was circulated at board level before the Tokyo Olympics last year.
Sports Minister Jack Chambers called the document a “disgrace” and said the sport was a “mess”. Dunne’s departure bore striking similarities to that of Walsh, who resigned from the same role in 2015 and took a coaching job in the United States.
The IABA must now “fully embrace and adopt” the governance reforms recommended in an independent report to avoid “immediate and serious financial consequences”, according to Chambers. Harrington knows that drastically cutting funding for the sport could spell disaster for Irish amateur boxers.
“I hope the government or someone will step in and take control so that we don’t get to this point,” she said. “It wouldn’t just be a sad day for Irish boxing. It would be a very sad day for Irish sport. We have 18 Olympic medals, and (reducing funding) would be a big mistake, a very big mistake, so hopefully that doesn’t happen and it can be fixed.
Harrington said it was “such a shame” Dunne left as he was “absolutely fantastic” at his job, and she hopes for a speedy resolution to the current standoff.
“At the end of the day, the only ones who will suffer are the boxers and that’s the truth. Someone is needed here in this position so that the coaches can actually do their job and train the boxers.
“I said to Bernard: ‘Here, your health is your wealth, you have to take care of yourself.’ There’s a limit to what a person can bear and there’s a fine line in everyone’s head. Once you cross that line, then that’s it. I said to him: ‘Bernard, you are doing what is good for you, but we miss you terribly. We would love for you to come back.
Harrington said the performance of the Irish boxers at the recent Women’s World Championships in Istanbul was “a real honor for their coaches, for their clubs”.
She was ruled out due to a ‘recurring issue’ but said the ‘recovery went well’.
“It’s just about relaxing now and making sure I don’t cause any damage to any part of my body. This is where injuries come in, when you throw yourself into the depths and think you can pick up where you left off. I also did yoga just to try to get flexibility and keep my head straight.
“I would like to be back in action by July, I hope, and I have no idea about the competition. I don’t think anything happens in the summer, but the Europeans are in October so that will be my goal.
*Kellie Harrington has been unveiled as Dublin City Council’s Sports Ambassador under a new three-year deal that will promote the benefits of sport and physical activity in Dublin.