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Aidan Walsh: My sister Michaela and I can keep making history all way to Olympics


Kurt Walker

Kurt Walker

Brendan Irvine

Brendan Irvine

Michaela Walsh

Michaela Walsh

�INPHO/Soenar Chamid

Kurt Walker

Monkstown ABC siblings Michaela and Aidan Walsh made a little piece of history following their selection as part of Ireland's 13-strong team for next month's Olympic qualifiers in London.

Joining them at the tournament to be held at the Copper Box Arena from March 14-24 will be Canal's Kurt Walker and St Paul's flyweight Brendan Irvine, who is the only survivor from the Irish team that took part in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

This will be the first time a brother and sister have taken part in the qualifiers, which will act as the first opportunity to secure a place at the Tokyo Games.

The Belfast duo have already broken new ground by claiming Irish Elite titles on the same night when they triumphed back in November, so their selection for the team was no great surprise.

Still, it is a proud moment for the family although Aidan insists they intend to go much further.

"I'm over the moon, especially with me and Michaela both being selected," said the 22-year-old welterweight hope.

"It means a lot more when you are picked alongside your sister, so I'm looking forward to it and it will be a good journey over the next few weeks.

"Someone said it's mad that a brother and sister are even going to the qualifiers, but we don't want to just go there.

"We want to qualify and get to the Olympics. We're over the moon to be picked, but we want to go further and aim for the gold and we're doing all we can to achieve that."

The Irish team will depart for a two-week training camp in Assisi, Italy on Monday as they make their final preparations for next month's qualifier.

There are 77 places for the Games available next month - 50 for men and 27 for women - across the eight male and five female weight classes with those who don't stamp their ticket for Tokyo next month afforded a second chance in Paris this summer.

However, Walsh insists his only thoughts will be on qualifying at the first time of asking.

"In my mind there is no next time, I'm going to qualify this time," he stressed.

"I'll just take it as it comes, prepare as best as I can and hopefully the gold medal I picture will be there at the end, so I'll stay positive.

"The hard training will really start on Monday when we go to Italy.

"It will be intense, but before you know it the qualifiers will be here.

"We always stay in shape and stay sharp, so it's just a matter of not over-cooking things and making sure I'm in the best possible shape I can be."

While the Walsh siblings will be aiming to reach their first Olympic Games, Irvine will be gunning for his second as he looks to put a nightmare 18 months behind him when injury kept him out of the ring.

'Wee Rooster' was forced to withdraw from last summer's European Games with a broken foot sustained in training and only returned to action in Hungary recently when dropping a split decision to Botswana's Mohammed Rajab, so will be aiming to use the training camp in Italy as an opportunity to regain full sharpness.

Walker was the star of the show for Ireland at last year's Europeans when the Lisburn featherweight returned with gold and he is viewed as a major hope for not just qualification, but a medal in Tokyo.

Another major hope for Team Ireland will be 2018 world lightweight champion Kellie Harrington, who has returned from a thumb injury.

The full Irish squad: Ceire Smith (51kg), Michaela Walsh (57kg), Kellie Harrington (60kg) Christina Desmond (69kg), Aoife O'Rourke (75kg). Brendan Irvine (52kg), Kurt Walker (57kg), George Bates (63kg), Aidan Walsh (69kg), Michael Nevin (75kg), E Brennan (81kg), K Afanaseve (91kg), Dean Gardiner (91+kg).

Belfast Telegraph