So Irish sport’s always-reliable pantomime wing loses another good man overboard, and the sound you hear might as well be Dougal and Father Ted condemning nudity outside a rural Irish cinema.
he circumstances that led to Bernard Dunne resigning as high-performance director of Irish boxing on Tuesday have now been all too well enumerated.
A virtual replica of the ones that drove Billy Walsh to America in 2015 or indeed Gary Keegan to the Institute of Sport seven years earlier. Circumstances that can be summed up in a single sentence.
The concept of excellence remains incompatible with the way the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) conducts its business.
And certain things are perhaps worth remembering here.
Back in 2008, a Genesis report recommended sweeping reforms within IABA after the fiasco of Keegan — the man who had led the high-performance entity since its inception five years earlier — being denied accreditation for the Beijing Olympics.
In 2015, with Walsh now en route to America where within a year he would be named ‘World Coach of the Year’, Sport Ireland chairman Kieran Mulvey threatened to review funding arrangements with the IABA.
In 2021, with the IABA returning ahead of another Joint Oireachtas Committee hearing, outgoing Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy stated his “strong view” that the introduction of modern governance practices into Irish boxing was long overdue.
By that time, Dunne had submitted his formal complaint to IABA over his treatment as HP director, at a time when the association was grappling with a divided board, schism at the central board level and widespread disillusionment among the grassroots.
glazed eyes? Understandable, but try to stick with us.
Within months of his appointment in 2017, Dunne was overruled in his team selection for the European Championships.
The IABA also refused to appoint him manager for those championships.
At the time, two different men claimed to be chairman of the association!
So Dunne undeniably had a quick grasp of the energies that drew Keegan and Walsh – two of the most respected figures in Irish sport today – from boxing.
But the deal-breaker was delivered in April last year.
Just as the final Tokyo Olympic qualifying process began, Dunne became aware of an unsigned 1,500-word SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats).
Analysis Position Paper’ distributed among IABA Board Members and within the boxing community.
The newspaper undermined him, he believed, on both a professional and personal level.
Remarkably, he nonetheless managed to oversee the qualification of seven Irish boxers for Tokyo, two of whom – Kellie Harrington (gold) and Aidan Walsh (bronze) – would go on to win medals at the games.
The author of the paper has never been identified, although Ciarán
Kirwan — chairman of the IABA board — told Oireachta’s hearing, “We know whose fingerprints are on it, or handprints in the IT sense, so we’re making progress.”
Kirwan also revealed at the time that some board members only wanted to give Dunne a six-month contract extension last April (a virtual vote of no confidence). The eventual 4-3 vote – which bizarrely granted him an extension due to expire 15 months before Paris 2024 – was only reached as a “compromise”.
It was last November that Dunne delivered his formal letter of complaint to IABA chief Fergal Carruth, in which he named two members he believes had undermined his position as HP director.
He has been on extended leave since the Tokyo games and when a hearing on his complaint was postponed last Wednesday, he is said to have decided he had finally had enough.
Speaking of Irish Independent Last November, given the frustrations that drove him through 2015 and the empty rhetoric that followed, Walsh – who has been in regular contact with Dunne throughout – spoke of seeing a shocking repeat of that history.
After all, the IABA accepted his resignation “with regret” at the time, although it had repeatedly obstructed and rejected the negotiations over the past eight months.
The Wexford man, now thriving in his role as head of US boxing, reflected seven months ago: “This is about the endless ordeal of having someone trying to cowardly undermine you behind your back” .
So Dunne is leaving, and no doubt the “Down with this sort of thing” posters will be back in effect.
And that is the modern history of Irish boxing. The story of a scar that just heals over the other.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/boxing/loss-of-bernard-dunne-from-irish-boxing-follows-very-similar-path-to-the-exits-of-billy-walsh-and-gary-keegan-41615942.html The loss of Irish boxing’s Bernard Dunne follows a very similar path to the exits of Billy Walsh and Gary Keegan