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Michael Conlan's coach Billy Walsh resigns: I was crying this morning over decision

Published 19/10/2015

Michael Conlan of Ireland kisses his coach Billy Walsh after beating Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Michael Conlan of Ireland kisses his coach Billy Walsh after beating Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Billy Walsh has said that for his own dignity and respect he had to resign as head coach of Ireland's High Performance Unit and move to a new role in the US.

Just days after master-minding Ireland’s best ever performance at the World Boxing championships in Doha with Belfast's Michael Conlan, Walsh announced his resignation after eight months of negotiations with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) failed to come to a resolution.

At the end of the championships in Doha Walsh hinted that he was optimistic that there would be a successful outcome to his protracted contractual talks with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. However, he dropped a bombshell today by announcing that he was quitting and will be taking up a role with USA Boxing.

"Regrettably the IABA has not made it possible for me to continue on in the role as Head Coach of the High Performance Unit and senior team," he said.

Speaking on RTE Radio's News at One, Walsh admitted it was the most difficult decision of his professional career but said he had no choice but to move on.

"It's time for me to move on, I have a deadline as well with people from America who offered me a position as head coach," he said. "It was a take-it or leave it and I pushed the decision back eight months for everything to be resolved, but unfortunately that didn't happen.

"It was about respect around your role and position, to lead your team through to Rio.

"It's a long-term venture which gives me a bit of security and it's a fantastic opportunity."

Walsh was anxious to stay in Ireland and had agreed terms of a new contract with the Irish Sports Council who fund his position.

However, the terms of the new contract were not acceptable to the IABA. For the past month Walsh has concentrated his energies on preparing the Irish men’s team for the World championships in Doha.

Ireland's Michael Conlan with his daughter Luisne as he returns to Dublin Airport after winning gold in the AIBA World Elite Championships in Doha.
Ireland's Michael Conlan with his daughter Luisne as he returns to Dublin Airport after winning gold in the AIBA World Elite Championships in Doha.
Ireland's Michael O'Reilly (left) Michael Conlan (centre) and Joe Ward return to Dublin Airport after competing in the AIBA World Elite Championships in Doha. PA
Ireland's Michael O'Reilly (left) Michael Conlan (centre) and Joe Ward return to Dublin Airport after competing in the AIBA World Elite Championships in Doha. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday October 16, 2015. See PA story BOXING Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ireland's Michael Conlan with his daughter Luisne (left) and Joe Ward returns to Dublin Airport after winning gold in the AIBA World Elite Championships in Doha. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday October 16, 2015. See PA story BOXING Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ireland's Michael O'Reilly (left) Michael Conlan (centre) and Joe Ward return to Dublin Airport after competing in the AIBA World Elite Championships in Doha. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday October 16, 2015. See PA story BOXING Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Michael Conlan of Ireland poses with his trophy after winning against Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan during the final of Men's Light weight of the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Doha on October 14, 2015. Michael Conlan survived a last minute knockdown to create boxing history, becoming the first Irishman to win an AIBA World Boxing Championship title. AFP PHOTO / FAISAL AL-TAMIMIFAISAL AL-TAMIMI/AFP/Getty Images
Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan (R) fights with Michael Conlan of Ireland during the final of Men's Light weight of the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Doha on October 14, 2015. Michael Conlan survived a last minute knockdown to create boxing history, becoming the first Irishman to win an AIBA World Boxing Championship title. AFP PHOTO / FAISAL AL-TAMIMIFAISAL AL-TAMIMI/AFP/Getty Images
Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan, in red, fights Michael Conlan of Ireland, during the Bantam weight final of the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan, in red, fights Michael Conlan of Ireland, during the Bantam weight final of the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Osama Faisal)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 14: (L_R) Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan (silver), Michael Conlan of Ireland (gold), Dzmitry Asanau of Belarusand (bronze) and Shiva Thapa (bronze) of India poses with their medals after the final of the Men's Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 14: Michael Conlan of Ireland (blue) fights Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 14: Michael Conlan of Ireland celebrates beating Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 14: Michael Conlan of Ireland (blue) fights Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 14: Michael Conlan of Ireland (blue) fights Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
DOHA, QATAR - OCTOBER 14: Michael Conlan of Ireland celebartes beating Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan in the final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

Walsh will travel to the USA on Thursday to take up the position as coach with the USA Women’s Boxing Team at their base in Colorado Springs.

The Wexford native was a guest of USA Boxing earlier this year at their base in Colorado Springs.

The Americans were advertising the position of women’s coach on their official website for the last number of months but the posting has been removed.

Walsh told listeners that the stress of the negotiations had taken its toll.

"Mentally, it's been very, very stressful over the last eight months. It has taken its toll in some ways," he admitted.

"I spent a lot of time crying this morning around this decision, but I think for the best of my health, for my future, it's the best way for me to move on.

"I went back time after time to try and make this work. For my own dignity and respect I felt I couldn't stoop any lower.

In a statement releases earlier today, Walsh thanked the Irish Sporting Council for their efforts in trying to solve the impasse which led him to resigning.

"I wish to express my gratitude to the Irish Sports Council for all their support and commitment to the IABA High Performance Programme over the course of the last 14 years and most recently in trying to broker an agreement on this matter," his statement read.

"The Sports Council have supported Irish boxing and worked tirelessly to find a solution."

"While leaving the Irish Team has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, my sights are now firmly set on my future role with USA Boxing.  It is a huge honor for me as a coach to receive the opportunity work with such an iconic sporting nation that is the USA. I am greatly looking forward to the opportunities ahead in bringing my expertise and experience to the USA Women’s Team as they prepare for success in Rio and beyond."

Walsh’s resignation is a massive blow to Irish boxing just seven months away from the Rio Olympics. Ireland finished in a record high fourth place in the medal table at the World championships in Doha with Conlan becoming the first Irish boxer to win a gold medal at the event.

It remains to be seen whether a last minute solution can be found but the IABA will come under enormous pressure to explain why they couldn’t hold on to the services of Walsh who had been Head Coach of the High Performance since it was set up in 2003.

Since then Irish boxers has won seven Olympic medals and they set for more success in Rio but the future of the IPU has now been plunged into doubt.

Ironically Walsh's first assignment will be the women’s World championships in Kazakhstan in January where Ireland’s Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor will be bidding to qualify for the Rio Games.

Olympic boxer Darren O'Nelll took to Twitter to voice his disappointment with today's confirmation.

"291 days til Rio & Billy Walsh sadly leaves our most successful team after 8 months of negotiating with IABA #BIGLOSS," he posted on his account.

The Republic's Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin paid tribute to Walsh's achievements within the sport.

"I’m hugely disappointed, I’ve known Billy for many years he is Ireland’s most successful coach by a country mile. He has brought extraordinary distinction to the sport of boxing, I think he’s elevated to a new height among the sporting people of Ireland.

"I know enormous efforts were put in place. I’ve had conversations with Pascal Donohoe, the minister for sport, I know he has made extraordinary efforts.

"We need to have some explanation as to why this could not be brought about because a sport is general is the poorer for that decision.

"I wish to thank Billy for his contribution to Irish Amateur Boxing over the last number of years and I wish him every success for the future."

Irish Independent

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