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Walsh edges closer to her gold medal Euro dream

 

What a feeling: Michaela Walsh celebrates beating Germany's Ornella Wahner in the featherweight boxing quarter-finals in Minsk yesterday
What a feeling: Michaela Walsh celebrates beating Germany's Ornella Wahner in the featherweight boxing quarter-finals in Minsk yesterday

By Bernard O'Neill

Michaela Walsh took revenge for Germany's world champion Ornella Wahner stealing her dream seven years ago at the European Games in Minsk yesterday.

Walsh beat the Dresden featherweight on a 4-1 split decision to guarantee herself at least a bronze medal.

World lightweight champion and Irish captain Kellie Harrington, Grainne Walsh and Kurt Walker also won yesterday to join Walsh, Michael Nevin and Regan Buckley in tomorrow's semi-finals.

Wahner, who had former Irish coach Eddie Bolger in her corner, was aggressive throughout the three rounder, but Belfast native Walsh picked off more than enough quality shots to advance.

The current EU champion reckons she should have won unanimously and has been targeting Wahner since the German topped the 57kg podium at the World Elites in 2018 in New Delhi.

"Since she won gold in my weight my eyes have been on her. I've been waiting to fight her for a long time. I actually boxed her in the semi-finals of the (2012) World Youth Champion­ships," she said.

"She beat me by one point (18-17). She stole my dream of becoming a youth world champion. I stuck to the game plan and I'm into the next phase. The job's not done yet."

Offaly welterweight Grainne Walsh admitted she had to dig deep to see off Finland's current European Elite champion Elina Gustafsson, the No.2 seed, in the Belarusian capital.

"This is what dreams are made of. I'm actually a bit emotional. It's a great achievement and I'm delighted with myself. I felt my technique and speed would be enough to beat her and I had to bite down hard," she said.

Meanwhile, Antrim bantam Walker recorded his second straight win over France's Samuel Kistohurry to make the last four.

He'll now face England's Peter McGrail tomorrow, for a place in the final, in a repeat of the 2018 EU decider which Walker won on a 3-2 split in Spain last November.

Harrington chalked up a third suc­cessive decision over Italy's Irma Testa to set up a semi-final clash with Sweden's Agnes Alexiusson, but Aoife O'Rourke dropped a unanimous ver­dict to Welsh middleweight Lauren Price last night.

"The first one is always hard. Irma is a class boxer, she's very technical, credit to Irma. I've been a long time waiting and it is a bit nerve-wrack­ing. Some of the team have had three fights and I'm only getting going," said Harrington.

Today is a rest day for the boxers. All semi-finals will be decided tomorrow, with the finals pencilled in for Satur­day and Sunday.

In badminton, Nhat Nguyen secured his place in the last-16 of the men's singles at the European Games and earned crucial points towards Olympic qualification, as the 19-year-old beat Austria's Luka Wraber to progress from Group F in second place.

Nguyen will find out his opponent for tomorrow after this evening's 7pm draw.

Josh Magee and Paul Reynolds recorded their first win of the tournament in the men's doubles beating Estonia's Kristjan Kaljurand and Raul Kasner.

A slow start in the first set saw the Irish team trail by eight points but they stormed back to take the win 21-19. A more confident game two saw the pair then secure the victory 21-16.

Happy with the performance the pair, who have been together for just one year, commented: "It's good to get a win after two tough days for us, we performed quite well the first day but the second was a bit worse, so it's good to come back up and finish on a high."

Rachael Darragh fought hard in her final group game, but it was Finland's Airi Mikkela who took the match points, winning 21-16 21-19.

Darragh commented: "I knew before I came here that I was up for a very tough week, these girls are all ranked a lot higher than me in the world rankings but I just came here with the intention to leave my best performances on the court, and I think I've done that, so it's a happy/sad kind of feeling at the minute."

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