Team Ireland had six athletes in action across four sports on the second day of the European Games in Minsk. Two finals were contested by Team Ireland today with Alice Sharpe finished in 25th place in the Cycling Women’s Cycling Road Race and Nathon Burns was 7th in the Judo Men’s Half-light Weight 66kg. Boxers Michael Nevin and Kieran Molloy both progressed to the quarter finals. Shooters Aoife Gormally and Derek Burnett competed in the first day of the qualification rounds of the Shotgun Trap event.
The first two Irish boxers were in action in Minsk today with Michael Nevin first into the ring facing off against Great Britain’s Mark Dickinson for the men’s middleweight 75kg preliminary round.
A cagey fight saw a tough opening round for Nevin as he was put through his paces thanks to an extremely strong start from Dickinson. A quick regroup from the Portlaoise-based boxer at the end of the round saw him come out strong in an absorbing second round. An extremely close battle followed in the closing round, before Nevin just edged a 3:2 win.
Speaking afterwards, Nevin stated: “I’m feeling good, I had a slow start coming into the first round, but in the second one, I came back strong. It was a tough fight, I just kept listening to the coach though and our tactics worked. It’s on to the next one now!”
The late fight of the day saw an extremely dominant display from Kieran Molloy to see him win his men’s welterweight clash with Goce Janeski (MKD) by unanimous decision. Molloy was in control from the off and powered through all three rounds in comprehensive fashion to leave the result beyond doubt.
“I feel great after that,” Molloy said afterwards. “It’s great to get the first one out of the way and a good performance as well so I’m looking forward to the next one. We’ve had great preparation for this, we’ve a great team behind us and the team is confident. I’m just going to relax now for the evening, get my recovery in and then refocus for the next fight.”
In the 120km Women’s Road Race Alice Sharpe finished in 25th place in a fast bunch finish, 11 seconds behind the eventual gold and silver medallists from the Netherlands Lorena Wiebes and Marianne Vos, and Belarusian bronze medallist Tatsiana Sharakova.
Speaking after the race, Sharpe was happy with her performance, “It was good – a bit of a weird race, I thought it would split up a bit more and go harder from the start, but it was a bit stop starty, with three up the road with a two minute gap at one point.”
In the early stages a small breakaway group of Belarus, Germany and Israel attacked the field, maintaining a lead of 2 minutes for much of the race. In the closing laps the gap was closed, with a strong Dutch team putting pressure on the peleton, resulting in a fast finish, “They left it late to bring it back, but then they did it in a lap in the end. The Dutch were driving it at the front, I sat in and waited for the finish.”
The race was contested over a tight and technical 15km circuit in Minsk City Centre, “It was a bit more like a kermesse or a crit – if anyone made an attack it was neutralised by the fact there was a corner, and then the bunch were able to kick hard for the corners, it was interesting though.”
Ireland’s Nathon Burns had four impressive performances as Judo got underway on Day 2 of the European Games. Competing at his first multi-sport event, Burns dominated his first fight in the Men’s 66Kg Category defeating Portugal’s Joao Crisistomo to advance from the round of 32.
Burns was matched with a familiar opponent in the last 16, Belgium’s Kenneth Van Gansbeke, and in a much closer affair came out on top 1-0 after the 4-minute contest.
Burns took his impressive form into the quarter final, but the fight ended in heartbreak for the 28-year-old as the eventual silver medallist, Matteo Medves of Italy, took the match in the dying seconds. His final finish position was seventh.
It was a similar story in the repechage where, with less than 20 seconds on the clock, Czech’s Pavel Petrikov scored to take the win.
With feelings of mixed emotions Burns was taking positives from the day, “It’s a place (secured) in a major event, certainly something really good to build on from this last year, particularly as I injured my ribs so was out for 5 months. He continued “As frustrating as it was and I expected so much more from today, especially how it started, after I wipe my face a little bit and think about the big picture, I can take a lot from today and really move forward with it, get some big points for next year.”
Aoife Gormally and Derek Burnett were competing in the first day of qualification rounds of the Shotgun Trap today – with Gormally lying 23rd in the Women’s Shotgun Trap going into the second day, on 60 points, and Burnett lying 25th on 65 points. The qualifications run across five rounds, and two days.
During the qualification rounds Gormally spoke about the added element of competing at a large multi-sport event, “I had a shaky second round, nerves are getting the better of me, it’s a more intense competition. There are more people around, more of an atmosphere, it is a bigger side of the sport.”
Gormally highlighted the importance of relaxing between rounds, “I try to focus on my breathing. It can be hard to reset, but you still have to try and focus, the most important thing is to keep calm. I’m going to take one target at a time.”
Four time Olympian Derek Burnett was competing in his second European Games, and got off to a steady start, “Beforehand it was a bit nerve wrecking I shot twenty two from the first twenty five I would have liked a couple of targets more but I had a couple of bad ones in practice so I will take what I got. Once you get the first one out of the way, whatever nerves you have is usually a bit less, I’ll hopefully improve on the first round, and all we can do is wait and see after that.”
Tomorrow will be another full day for Team Ireland with shooting, cycling, judo, boxing and athletics all on the schedule. The European Games run from the 21-30 June in Minsk, Belarus.