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Dunne and O'Sullivan fight it out for Irish boxing role

By Michael Vernon

The vacant High-Performance Director's job with the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) looks set to be a heavyweight clash with former Irish rugby coach Eddie O'Sullivan and former boxing World champion Bernard Dunne heavily linked with the position.

It is understood that 58-year-old O'Sullivan, who led Ireland to three Triple Crowns and Test victories over South Africa and Australia, has already been interviewed along with former WBA super-bantamweight World title holder Dunne (28-2).

The pair could go head-to-head for the role, which has been vacant since Gary Keegan quit shortly after the 2008 Olympics, and it is believed boxing authorities received up to 20 applications with initial interviews taking place late last month.

The job description read as follows according to the IABA website: "The HPD will have ultimate responsibility for all elements of the National High-Performance Plan. The HPD will report directly to the IABA Chief Executive Officer.

"He/she will be responsible for leading and managing a team of dedicated High-Performance Coaches and Support Staff to deliver on agreed targets set out for the IABA's High-Performance Programme."

O'Sullivan has been out of management since parting ways with French side Biarritz in September 2015 when a disappointing start to their Pro D2 campaign left them well off their intended return to the Top14.

Dunne (37), winner of 13 national boxing titles as an amateur, has been working as a performance and lifestyle coach with the all-conquering Dublin footballers for the past four years.

It's an unlikely duel between two high-profile figures in Irish sport and, interestingly, Dunne's World title defeat of Ricardo Cordoba in Dublin's O2 Arena on March 21, 2009 came on the same day that Ireland, under O'Sullivan's replacement Declan Kidney, won the Grand Slam.

The interview process has yet to conclude, but it is expected the position will be filled before June's European Men's Championships in Ukraine, which is followed by the World Championships in Germany in August.

The Irish boxing team meet Russia, France, Germany and Italy in Dublin later this month as part of their training plan for the Euros as they try to rebuild following the major departures of Olympic stars Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes to the professional ranks.

The exit of head coach Billy Walsh to the USA boxing team also rocked the Irish in 2015 with Walsh touted as a potential successor to Keegan, but the position was not filled at that time.

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