AN unfortunate injury has placed Grainne Walsh's dreams of boxing in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in jeopardy.
The Tullamore welterweight damaged ligaments in her thumb while sparring recently, resulting in an operation that will rule her out of action for over three months.
The injury could not have come at a worse time for her as she was in a crucial stage of preparations for the first Olympics qualifier in March in London.
She will definitely be out for that and her dreams are now hanging by a thread – there is a second qualifier in Paris in May and while Walsh should be fit and flying by then, the spot in the Olympics could be gone.
Ireland can only send one boxer in the welterweight division and if Cork boxer Christina Desmond comes through the London qualifier, she will have her place in Tokyo booked and Walsh will have to wait a further four years to try and realise her Olympic dream.
A member of Sparatacus Boxing Club in Tullamore, Walsh had also been down to fight in the Strandja Multi Nations Tournament in Bulgaria last week but her big focus had been on the Olympics qualifiers.
A philosophical Walsh stated last week that she was very disappointed to get her injury at such a crunch time but acknowledged that she has been lucky with injuries so far in her career.
Fifty nations will compete in the European qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 – 77 places are up for grabs, 50 men and 27 women. Ireland can only send one competitor in each division and have two excellent boxers, Walsh and Desmond vying for womens' welterweight.
24 years of age, Walsh is a remarkable sports person. She was an outstanding underage soccer player, who played internationally for Ireland in her teens. She initially took up boxing during the soccer off season to keep up her fitness and it was not long before that became her sport of choice.
She has since developed into one of Ireland's top amateur women boxers, winning national senior titles and competing internationally – she won bronze medals at the 2019 European Games and the 2017 EU Championships.
Fiercely committed and driven, she stated that her focus now is on her recovery and getting back to optimum fitness as soon as possible.