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'Nobody understands except a few': Brendan Irvine on his Olympic joy after injury nightmare

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Ireland's Brendan Irvine (blue) defeats Hungary's Istvan Szaka (red) to seal an Olympic place.

Ireland's Brendan Irvine (blue) defeats Hungary's Istvan Szaka (red) to seal an Olympic place.

PA

Ireland's Brendan Irvine (blue) defeats Hungary's Istvan Szaka (red) to seal an Olympic place.

Belfast boxer Brendan Irvine has shone a light into the injury nightmare that has made his qualification for the Olympic Games all the sweeter.

The 23-year-old sealed his spot at the Tokyo Olympics by outboxing Hungarian Istavan Szaka over three rounds at London's CopperBox Arena on Monday.

The qualifying tournament would be cancelled just hours later due to the coronavirus but Irvine was glad to have done enough to ensure he will add to his memories from the 2016 Games.

"It's such a relief," he told the BBC. "It gives me more time to prepare physically and mentally. I can go back to the drawing board and work on things I didn't get to show here.

"With time, everything will click together nicely."

Since his 2016 Olympic debut, Irvine has picked up a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the previous year's Europeans.

However, he was denied the chance to bag another medal at either the 2019 European or World Championships after a freak foot injury during sparring added to earlier injury woes.

"I didn't even think I was going to get the chance to come to the Olympic qualifiers so to qualify first time round is unbelievable," he smiled after Monday's win opened a new chapter in his career.

"There have been a lot of ups and down. In training for the Commonwealth Games, I tore a ligament in my hand and then I fractured my foot last year before the European games.

"Nobody has seen that. I think people maybe thought I had dropped off the radar and given up but I was training every day.

"I was training in a (protective) boot thinking I was going to the World Championships. Nobody understands except for a few people close to me.

"I'm over the moon."

Belfast Telegraph