Day four of the European Games in Minsk got off to a strong start for Team Ireland who were competing in badminton, boxing and shooting. Shooters Aoife Gormally and Derek Burnett finished 6th in the Trap Mixed Team, and Nhat Nguyen won his group match in Men’s Singles (Badminton). Boxers Kurt Walker, Michaela Walsh and Grainne Walsh progressed to the next round, in an afternoon session, where it wasn’t the day for Dean Gardiner.
Boxer Kieran Molloy will be contesting the 1/8 Preliminary Rounds in the Men’s Welter -69kg later, and badminton players Chloe Magee, Sam Magee, Joshua Magee and Paul Reynolds will also be launching their European Games campaign. Sixty-three athletes are competing across nine sports in the European Games which run from the 21-30 June.
Nhat Nguyen got Team Ireland Badminton off to a great start in Minsk with the 19-year-old dominating his first match in Group F of the Men’s Singles. Nguyen took the first game easily with a score of 21-11 and closed out the second game against Bulgaria’s Daniel Nikolov 21-13 to take the match. Next up for Nguyen in the group stages is 2015 European Games Champion, Pablo Adian of Spain.
Speaking after the match Nguyen commented, “I’m really happy, we stuck to the plan, me and my coach, I’m happy that I did the plan correctly so really pleased with my performance.”
Grainne Walsh stormed home to a massive victory in her welterweight bout with Great Britain’s Rosie Eccles. An extremely physical battle saw nothing separating the boxers in the opening round, matching up extremely well. Walsh took the edge in the second round, landing some key blows on the experienced Great Britain boxer and while an equally tough third round followed, Walsh again showed some great initiative to score a 4:1 win.
“It’s always a tough fight with GB and I’ve fought that girl before and it was another close decision today,” she said afterwards. “All the people in my weight are up there at world level so there’s no easy draw. I’m just happy to get the first one done. She was very tough, very physical, it was a great scrap, a proper dog fight and I’m delighted with the win.”
Twelve-time national champion and 2019 World Cup gold medal winner, Michaela Walsh, faced tough opposition in her opening bout in Minsk this afternoon, as she went head-to-head with old foe Lacramioara Perijoc of Romania. The pair have faced off against each other several times in the last number of months, most recently in the semi-finals of the Women’s World Cup in Germany, with Walsh winning all clashes.
Today’s bout proved to be another tricky contest between the two fighters, but a strong and assured showing from Walsh saw her win out on a 4-1 split decision in the end.
Earlier on in the day, Kurt Walker opened proceedings in style for Ireland, winning out his men’s bantamweight fight with Armenia’s Zhirayr Sargsyan on a 4-1 split decision to secure a quarter-final berth. The fight was an extremely close affair, with the boxers matching each other blow for blow in the early stages, and speaking afterwards, Walker reflected: “He was very, very good, better than I expected. He was very fit. This was his second fight and he was probably more warmed up, I felt a bit rusty in there, but it will stand me well for the quarter-final bout.”
It was a tough day in the ring for Ireland’s Dean Gardiner however, as he saw his European Games campaign come to an end when he lost his opening bout in the men’s Super Heavyweight to Georgia’s Mikheil Bakhtidze on a tough 4-1 split decision. The Tipperary boxer took the opening round of a hard-hitting contest, but the Georgian had the edge on the cards in rounds two and three to win out.
Boxing Results (Session 1):
Men’s Bantamweight (56kg)
Kurt Walker (IRL) wins on 4-1 split decision: 29-28, 28-29, 27-30, 28-29, 27-30
Men’s Super Heavyweight (91kg)
Dean Gardiner (IRL) loses on 4-1 split decision: 28-29, 29-28, 28-29, 27-30, 26-30
Women’s Featherweight (57kg)
Michaela Walsh (IRL) wins on a 4-1 split decision: 27-30, 27-30, 29-28, 28-29, 28-29.
Women’s Welterweight (69kg)
Grainne Walsh (IRL) wins 4-1: 28-29, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27
Aoife Gormally and Derek Burnett finished an impressive sixth in the Trap Mixed Team at the European Games, with a final score of 133. The Irish pairing regrouped after their individual rounds to finish strong with 45-44-44, coming within 2 points of contesting for medals in the final.
In this morning’s qualification rounds Gormally and Burnett each shot three rounds of 25 targets. Team Ireland moved into seventh position with a total of 45 in the first round, they moved to sixth place by the end of the second round, scoring 44, another 44 shots in the final rounds secured a final placing of sixth, just two off the bronze medal final.
The gold medals will now be contested by Spain and Italy, and the bronze medal will be decided following the contest between Russia and Italy.
“It’s a great achievement, I feel very positive after,” Gormally said after their strong finish. “We had a bad individual event, I finished strong yesterday evening, I was hopeful today, we did very well, I’m proud of us.”
Gormally scored 23 out of her 25 targets in the final round, bringing Team Ireland within two points of a medal final, “I felt I was hitting targets well, so I built my confidence from there. It’s all about focusing and not letting the small things get to you.”
Burnett added, “It was a case of get so close and yet so far, so a little bit of a disappointment but I’m seeing the positive in it, finishing 6th was great. The individuals didn’t go so good for either of us so the expectations weren’t too high, but you’re always thinking at shooting that you’re in with a chance. You go out feeling positive and hopefully get the result that you’re hoping for.”
DAY FOUR EVENING SCHEDULE (IRISH TIME):
*Note the schedule may be subject to change *
17:00 Badminton – Joshua Magee & Paul Reynolds (IRL) Vs Christopher Langridge & Marcus Ellis (GB) Men’s Doubles
17:45 Badminton – Chloe Magee & Sam Magee (IRL) Vs Evgenii Dremin & Evgenia Dimova (RUS) Mixed Doubles
18:00 Boxing – Kieran Molloy (IRL) Vs Yauheni Dauhaliavets (BLR) Men’s Welter -69kg
20:00 Badminton – Rachael Darragh (IRL) Vs Agnes Korosi (HUN) Women’s Singles