Kellie Harrington hopes disillusioned Bernard Dunne says ‘I’ll be back’

Kellie Harrington has heard this story before. Yet another high-performance director – adored and respected by Ireland’s best amateur boxers – walking away from his position, disillusioned by the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA).

This is something that happens all the time,” said Harrington.

“Look at before (the 2016 Olympics in) Rio: we lost Billy (Walsh). It does look like everything is alright (due to the recent medals) but it’s not. It does need to be addressed once and for all.”

Dunne’s resignation came in the wake of an unsigned SWOT analysis that was highly critical of his performance, which was circulated at board level prior to the Tokyo Olympics last year.

Minister for Sport Jack Chambers described the document as “a disgrace” and said the sport has “serious issues” and is a “mess”. The situation had striking similarities to the departure of Walsh, who resigned from the same role in 2015 and took a job coaching in the US.

The IABA must now “fully embrace and adopt” the governance reforms recommended in an independent report if it wishes to avoid “immediate and severe financial consequences,” according to Minister for Sport Jack Chambers.

Harrington knows that if the sport’s funding is slashed, it would spell disaster for Irish amateur boxers. “I’m hoping the government or someone is going to step in and take control of it so we don’t get to that stage,” she said.

“It wouldn’t just be a sad day for Irish boxing. It’d be a very sad day for Irish sport if that has to happen. We have 18 Olympic medals, and (cutting funding) would be a big mistake, a very big mistake, so I’m hoping it doesn’t happen and it can be sorted out.”

Harrington said it was “such a pity” that Dunne walked away as he was “absolutely fantastic” at his job, and she’s hoping for a swift resolution to the current impasse.

“He is needed here or someone is needed here in that position so the coaches can actually do their job and coach the boxers. I’d love if it was Bernard. I’d love if he said, ‘OK, I’ll come back.’”

Harrington said the performance of the Irish boxers at the recent Women’s World Championships in Istanbul was “a real credit to their coaches, to their clubs”. She was ruled out of that event due to a “recurring niggle” but said “recovery has been going great”.

“It was just a little niggle and we decided then it wasn’t worth going and making it worse than it was. It’s just about easing back into it now and making sure I don’t do any damage to any part of my body. That’s where injury comes in, when you jump in at the deep end and think you can pick up where you left off when it doesn’t actually work that way. I’ve been doing yoga as well just to try to get my flexibility and get my head right.

“I’d love to be back sparring by July, hopefully, and I’ve no idea about competition. I don’t think there’s anything going on in the summertime, but the Europeans are in October so that’ll be my goal.”

Next year will present the first chance for Harrington to qualify for the 2024 Olympics in Paris and she said making it there to defend her title is the priority.

“Whatever happens this year doesn’t make a difference to next year so it’s about being fresh in your body and your mind,” she said. “Next year is where everything counts. If I can get to the Olympics again, that’d be just mad.”

Kellie Harrington was unveiled as a Dublin City Council Sports Ambassador in a new three-year deal that will promote the benefits of sport and physical activity in Dublin

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