A busy morning on the third day of action at the European Games in Minsk saw mixed fortunes for Team Ireland, boxer Regan Buckley advanced to the next round, while Tony Browne lost on a 4-1 split in his bout. Judoka Megan Fletcher finished 7th, getting within one fight of a medal, and the cyclists raced hard, with Robert Jon McCarthy the highest finisher in 30th place. Shooting saw Aoife Gormally finish 15th in the Shotgun Trap qualifications, and teammate Derek Burnett 31st, missing out on the final.
Outside the field of play Team Ireland was delighted to welcome children from Adi Roche’s Chernobyl Children’s International (CCI) to the hotel were members of the support team are staying. They were joined by athletes and staff members for the afternoon, before attending the athletics session in the Dinamo Stadium as guests of the Olympic Federation of Ireland. CCI was established by Adi Roche in the aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in 1986 to give hope and support to the children.
The European Games run from the 21-30 June, with 63 athletes competing across nine sports.
“I’d be able to go out there again now!” said an exhilarated Regan Buckley this afternoon after he dominated his opening bout in style to win on a unanimous verdict.
The light-fly faced off against 2015 European Games gold medallist, Russia’s Bator Sagaluev (who beat Brendan Irvine in the 2015 final), and Buckley didn’t give him a second to settle, hitting the ring in full form from the off, working Sagaluev at every turn and boxing hard. The Irish fighter kept up the intensity in the second round, mounting the pressure on a tiring Sagaluev, and punishing the Russian at every turn. Buckley carried this momentum into the last and scored a unanimous decision after an extremely dominant performance.
“I’m feeling great I’m very happy,” he continued afterwards. “Building from this now will be the important thing. The first round, I felt I caught him with some nice shots and I got my timing straight away, which was great. The second round I was doing what the coach was telling me and everything worked. The third round then was a bit of a brawl, I could see he was a bit tired, so I was trying to push on the gas and the coach was telling me to get back out and box again, so I did. I’d be able to go again now! The training has been great and I’m well conditioned. I’ll find out who I’m fighting soon – but it doesn’t matter who is next, as I’m going for gold!”
Tony Browne was the second boxer in action for Ireland this afternoon, and despite a solid showing from the Dubliner, lost out to Croatian Tony Filipi on a 4-1 split decision in the heavyweight class. The closely fought and extremely tactical battle was an engrossing contest, with Browne fighting hard throughout, but Filipi pipped it on a 4-1 split, with the final scores 29-27, 29-27, 29-27, 28-27 and 26-30.
Speaking afterwards, a disappointed Browne said: “I’m very disappointed, one punch can change a fight. I will have to have a look back on the fight myself but it was a close fight and it could have gone either way at the end, but obviously the count during the fight cost me the decision. It was a pretty cagey fight, there was a lot of sussing each other out and feinting in the first two rounds in particular. I felt I was landing the cleaner shots of the two, but in the last round, I was caught with that shot that I didn’t see coming and that may have been the deciding factor in the decision. The prep for this Games has been great, and there will be a lot to learn from it, but for now, it’s about getting behind the rest of the team and supporting them.”
Performance Director, Bernard Dunne added: “Tony’s preparation for this fight was second to none. He’s new at this Division and he’s finding out about the other boxers and what’s what. He’s also building towards something and that’s 2020. There are a lot of learnings to take from this and when it comes to 2020, he won’t be thinking of this fight, but the learnings.”
The boxing action continues this afternoon, with James McGivern up next in the lightweight welter at 4.30pm, followed by Michael Nevin’s second bout of the Games at 6.45pm, when he faces Rio 2016 bronze medallist Kamran Shakhsuvarly of Azerbaijan.
Men’s Lightweight Fly (49kg)
Regan Buckley – Wins on unanimous: 27:30, 27:30, 28:29, 27:30 and 27:30.
Men’s Heavyweight (91kg)
Tony Browne – Loses on 4-1 split: 29-27, 29-27, 29-27, 28-27 and 26-30.
The 180km Men’s Road Race had five Team Ireland cyclists competing in a tough and hard event where the pace was fast from the start. The early stages saw a small breakaway group gain over four minutes at one stage. The pace rose in the closing laps when the break was reeled back in, and going into the final lap Team Ireland’s Ryan Mullen, Matthew Teggart, Michael O’Loughlin, Mark Downey and Robert Jon McCarthy were all part of the main peleton. In the closing laps eventual winner Davide Ballerini (Italy) took the win with a solo attach to the line, Alo Jakin (Estonia) finished second and Daniel Auer (Austria) rounded off the podium. McCarthy was Ireland’s top finisher in 30th place, with O’Loughlin and Mullen finishing in the main peleton also.
Speaking after the race O’Loughlin described a tough race, “It was a pretty savage race altogether, the course was so technical that you were kicking out of corners. To be honest the first lap was pretty hard, the race calmed down for maybe two or three laps, but after that it was on the pedals all day. It was probably the hardest race I’ve done all year!”
Robert Jon McCarthy was Ireland’s top finisher, “The Italians attacked with four or five laps to go – we managed to put ourselves on their wheel, we didn’t really put a foot wrong – just in the back end the legs came off a bit. We missed the move with two laps to go, and it just lined up with two laps to go. We finished in the bunch, it was a hard race, and it was an honour to represent Ireland there.”
Road racing is a tactical sport and going into the race the team had a plan, but it was not the day for it. Kurt Bogaerts, Team Ireland Director Sportif who follows the race in the car talked through the race, “So there was a small early break in the early stages of three riders. We had planned if it was a big group to be part of it with Michael but three riders were never going to make it to the finish. Then the Italian team, the French team and our team participated in the chase, and then the peleton really got split. In the first part we had Ryan, Michael and Robert. I think Ryan had the legs – but his big focus is the Time Trial on Tuesday where he has a medal chance.”
Ireland’s Megan Fletcher had a mixed day as she competed in the Women’s 70kg category in Judo. Fletcher was impressive in her opening fight in a close encounter with Spain’s Sarah Rodriguez where she took a golden score win to progress to the last 16.
Fletcher came up against another tough opponent in the next round in Great Britain’s Sally Conway, the Rio 2016 Bronze medallist and 2018 European Championships silver medallist in the event. The fight was evenly matched throughout and with 20 seconds on the clock, a fantastic score ensured a place in the quarter finals for the Irishwoman.
In the quarter final Nederland’s Sanne Van Dijke proved too strong for Fletcher and took the win with two minutes remaining on the clock, Van Dijke went on to win her semi-final and competes in the gold medal match later this evening. After three hard fought contests Fletcher bowed out of the competition in the repechage beaten by Croatia’s Barbara Matic.
With six athletes progressing to the finals of the Shotgun, Aoife Gormally and Derek Burnett settled for 15th and 31st respectively in the Shotgun Trap competition at the European Games today. Today was the last of the qualification rounds and a very strong finish from Gormally saw her finish 15th out of 29 starters with 102 points in the women’s event. Tomorrow both athletes will compete in the mixed trap event.
This evening Team Ireland athletes will be competing in the boxing and athletics. Michael Nevin and James McGivern compete shortly, with the Athletics team participating in Match Three of the exciting new DNA programme (Dynamic New Athletics). Fifteen athletes compete in track and field events as part of a team against other nations, with points being awarded for each event. The points are combined in a similar fashion to decathlons with the leaders being determined at the end of the match. The European Games run from the 21-30 June in Minsk, Belarus.
DAY THREE EVENING SCHEDULE (IRISH TIME):
*Note the schedule is subject to change *
15:44 Athletics – Dynamic New Athletics – Full Irish Team.
16:30 Boxing – James McGivern (IRL) Vs Michal Takacs (SVK) Men’s Lightweight Welter 64kg
18:45 Boxing – Michael Nevin (IRL) Vs Kamran Shakhsuvarly (AZE) Men’s Middleweight 75kg