ALL he wants to do is box but Michael O’Reilly showed more courage than most when he stepped into the courtroom last week to fight for his right to fight for Portlaoise and Ireland in international boxing.
The young boxer will have the chance to consign last week’s courtroom to the past when he climbs into the ring again today at the European Youth at the City West Hotel in Dublin. He is due to fight a champion from the Ukraine.
But it all could have been different for the brave Kilminchy boxer who made national headlines last week when he went to court to win the right to represent Ireland at the championships.
The case came about after Michael was removed from the squad for supposed “disciplinary” reasons involving an incident with a car.
It led to Michael, aged 18, losing his place on the Irish squad and being disqualified from a box off. But neither Michael nor his club or coach, Pat Ryan were prepared to accept what they saw as an injustice.
With the help of the Arles Killeen man and solicitor Brendan McDonald of Coughlan White & Partners, Newbridge the Portlaoise clubman went to the High Court.
After a two day case of often complicated legal argument, Mr Judge John Cooke ruled in the Portlaoise boxer’s favour.
The judge was not prepared to order a box-off with another boxer because he said the final selection for all international boxing teams must be ratified by the association’s central council. Less than a day later, a central council vote on Saturday morning led to his automatic selection at welterweight on merit.
Pat Ryan has been there for many of Michael’s wins but the court battle was a whole new experience. While preferring never having to go to court, Mr Ryan said his boxer’s courage represented his club’s mentality.
“There is a syaing we have in the Portlaoise Club: ‘Winners never quit and quitters never win’. Michael is an winner,” said the coach.
Mr Ryan described as “extrordinary” the dropping of Michael and said the Portlaoise club had to support its member.
“Michael is a member of the Portlaoise boxing club. He has distinguished himself all over the world.
“He has travelled extensively and has never been disciplined or cautioned for anything. His conduct and behaviour has been exemplary,” said the coach.
Mr Ryan was confident that last week’s case would not affect his boxer.
“Michael is an extraordinary young man. He is very well grounded. He knows his way around boxing and he knows what is expected of him. He trains twice a day with me and we prepare him for everything,” he said.
The coach said there were lessons for other organisations and sports clubs must abide by their rules.
“If we or one person decides to ignore the rules we do so at their peril. That is the importance of every club having its own constitution to ensure that every member is treated in a proper and correct manner,” he said.
While hoping to do well this week, the Portlaoise boxer wants to represent his country at next year’s London Olympics.
He wants to fight in next year’s national Irish senior championships but he has already proven he can compete with the best. At Open Senior Championships he beat three senior boxers including a former champion, losing out by one round in the final to Roy Sheehan, a European gold medalist.
Mr Ryan expects that next January’s champion will win the right to fight for Ireland.
“All Michael wants to do is box. We are very proud of the way Michael conducts himself. Can you imagine in the middle of all this crisis Michael entered the senior open championships and boxed his way to the final? That is a clear indicator of the character and talent.
“Everybody in boxing acknowleges that Michael is the rising star of boxing,” he said.
The club secretary praised the solicitor Brendan McDonald for his “meticulous” work in winning the case. He also thanked club chairman Pat Reddin and all at the Portlaoise Club for their support.