Bernard Dunne has a demanding approach that has already had a positive impact on Irish amateur boxing, barely a month after his appointment as High Performance Director, according to Irish Olympian Darren O’Neill.
Results inside the ring have clearly suffered since Billy Walsh’s departure from the role of head of the dedicated high performance unit in October 015, with the Ireland team experiencing a torrid time at the Rio Olympics.
But Dunne has already begun to have a positive effect as the Irish team gets ready for the European Elite Men’s Championships in Ukraine in June, says six-time Irish champion O’Neill.
“He’s going to be good because he has a background in amateur boxing,” said the 31-year-old Kilkenny man, who boxed at the 2012 London Games.
“I know he’s removed from it for a long time but he has been involved in the highest level of sport be it amateur boxing, professional boxing or with the Dublin footballers. He knows what high performance sport is about and the high standards that are needed.
“It’s a change. Change can often be difficult. He has been doing fine so far but it’s going to take another few weeks or months before we see his real impact.
“So far he has been trying to demand more from us, from ourselves, in a discipline and commitment sense, and in calling each other out if we see someone slacking. He wants to see us encourage each other and be more of a team. It has been good so far.”
O’Neill is the longest-serving member of the fabled high performance unit and the most experienced of the nine-man team that will represent Ireland in Ukraine between 14-25 June.
The former middleweight champion, now fighting at heavyweight, was embedded in the squad when Katie Taylor and Michael Conlan were winning gold medals at major championships, so O’Neill is well aware that standards were slipping in the absence of a high-performance director.
“Definitely. I won’t even say since Billy Walsh left because before that Billy was double-jobbing and that probably didn’t get the recognition that was needed,” said the qualified primary school teacher.
“When he left we were a man short and in recent weeks Eddie Bolger left and we still haven’t replaced those coaches. Zaur Antia has been doing a great job, but he is a coach and that’s what he’s best at.
“To distract him from that and have him deal with so many other things was a shame. When the team had to deal with some of the issues that came up, we didn’t have someone in place or the pillar that was needed.
“Coaches are involved in coaching and they’re required to man the ship with the team, but we needed someone at the helm to take care of those discipline and public issues. That will be Bernard’s job going forward.”
–Pete Sweeney, RTÉ Sport journalist