Fergal Carruth on what made Bernard Dunne a stand-out applicant for IABA job

Former boxing world and European champion Dunne was appointed the IABA's new High Performance Director

Fergal Carruth, Bernard Dunne

Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Fergal Carruth described Bernard Dunne's appointment as an 'important one in the history of Irish boxing' and backed the former world and European boxing champion to excel in the role.

Dunne takes over as the Irish Athletic Boxing Association's (IABA) new High Performance Director, the first time the role has been filled since Gary Keegan almost a decade ago.

The decision, Carruth explains, was "unanimous".

"We're delighted, it was a very intense, robust and rigorous interview process that he went through and he emerged as the successful candidate," he said on Thursday afternoon.

"We believe for many reasons he's come to the IABA at the right time for him and the association.

"It was a key recommendation within the Rio review and there were 30 in total. Eight or nine of those were centered around appointing a High Performance director or the duties they would have once in place."

Dunne stressed that he would be using his power to 'facilitate the growth' of athletes within the system and spoke at length about the 'vision of excellence' he intends to introduce at the organisation.

Aside from his boxing background, the 37-year-old has spent almost four years with the Dublin senior football team as a performance and lifestyle coach, experience which Carruth admits made him a stand out candidate.

"His experience certainly in the boxing world, he was the candidate with the most experience that put themselves forward but also his work with the Dublin football team has been really really beneficial to him and has stood out and will be a great advantage for him coming into the role."

The Irish Independent this month reported that the battle for the top job was between Dunne and former Ireland rugby head coach Eddie O'Sullivan.

While Carruth said it was "unfair" to identify any candidate who was unsuccessful in their application, he did say there was a temptation to bring in someone from outside of sport.

"Some would see the High Performance function as a business function within the sport so we were very open to bring in someone from outside."

He added: "It's safe to say there were people of high profile from other sports. Irish and international."

The task now, Carruth says, is to build an "ecosystem of high performance" around the athletes at the National Sports Campus in Abbottstown.

Partners: Zaur Antia (left) and Bernard Dunne will spearhead the next generation of Irish boxers. Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

The IABA are seeking to put athletes up on the site of the Sport Institute, with many including top prospect Brendan Irvine travelling from the North and staying in a hotel during their weekly training.

Another key issue will be replacing the experienced coach Eddie Bolger, who left this year to take up the position of head coach with the German national team.

"I think the most obvious thing from the outside is to bring in another coach," he explains, while adding that it will be left to the discretion of Dunne and head coach Zaur Antia.

Rio Review

There's plenty of talk regarding the Rio Review and the recommendations for the IABA to follow, but with Dunne's arrival it feels like the IABA are beginning to close the chapter on an otherwise forgettable Olympic Games.

The loss of Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes will be felt, but speaking at the unveiling, Joe Ward was quick to position himself as one of the "leaders" in the group.

Emerging talent like Christine Desmond, Kellie Harrington and Irvine highlight the level of boxer coming through the system at the moment.

Autumn's European Championships will be watched closely by those both inside and outside the organisation and a good performance could go some way to restoring the funding cuts endured by the IABA by Sport Ireland.

"If you want to be the best and the world's number one boxing nation, it requires that we continuously improve," Carruth says.

"The Rio Review has been open and honest, highlighting that there has been cracks in the system for quite some time - maybe our medal success in some championships has papered over those cracks.

"Now, it's taken what's happened in Rio to shine a light on what needs to be done."

It won't be a quick fix and with reports of rifts within the IABA surfacing this week stifling the progress made, the appointment feels like a move in the right direction for Irish boxing.