Monday 14 October 2019

London calling


THE IRISH dressing-room at the Hayri Gur Sports Hall in Turkey was rocking to 'Dancing At The Crossroads' as The Ballagh's Adam Nolan secured his passage to the London Olympics this July.

And the heathers were blazing in The Ballagh on Sunday night as a decorated small rural village welcomed home their local hero who became the second man from the Model county to qualify for the Olympic Games in boxing - current head coach Billy Walsh having qualified himself for the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Before the semi-final bout, when Nolan received his qualification ticket, Walsh explained: 'I went down to the waterfront this morning and went for a walk - makes you feel like back home in Wexford walking along the quays - and I was thinking of 'Dancing At The Crossroads' and we played that for Adam in the dressing-room before we went out today.'

Nolan had just joined Kilkenny teammate, Darren O'neill, John Joe Nevin from Mullingar, Beijing bronze medallist Paddy Barnes, and Belfast teenager, Michael Conlan, on the team for London 2012, while his Bray colleague, Katie Taylor, is all set to join them from next month's Women's World championships in China.

Bray-based Garda Nolan was the least likely qualifier. Last year he won this first Irish Senior welterweight title but he damaged a ligament in his knuckle three weeks later, missing out on the European championships, so he was never going to be ready in time for the World championships.

It was only after he retained his national title in February that he became a full-time member of the High Performance squad under Billy Walsh, who had trained him to win his first Irish crown as an eleven-yearold.

And it's that early coaching that stood to him at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Trabzon when he went back to basics to hammer out a convincing 19-10 victory over the experienced Romanian, Ionut Gheorghe, who had been to two Olympics and beat another Irishman, John Joe Joyce, at a Beijing qualifier in Pescara.

Nolan, however, gave him a lesson in boxing. Changing his tactics from the previous fight when his southpaw right jab worked wonders, he flicked out an accurate left jab that caught the Romanian every time.

When he went to Bray as a Garda his father, John, contacted Billy Walsh about a club.

Walsh immediately sent him to Pete Taylor at Bray A.B.C. where he honed his talents alongside Katie Taylor, and he is now set to accompany her to the Olympic Games.

'I always wanted to win a Senior title and when you win one, you always want to win another one, and, being Olympic year, you want to go a step further,' he said.

'I always knew whoever came out of the welterweight division in Ireland would have a great chance of qualifying. It's a tough division - four or five world-class boys there.'

Billy Walsh admitted that he was concerned about Nolan's lack of experience.

'If he could cope with the occasion we knew he could do it, but, my God, did he do it, cope with the occasion and cope with everything,' he said.

Now guaranteed a place on the plane to the Olympics, Adam is quick to recognise the part played by the Taylor family and his Garda colleagues in Bray.

'The Taylor family have been great to me. 'I'm part of the family now, no matter when I call. I train with Katie. They've been unbelievable support to me along with my own family and friends.

'Also my Garda colleagues and bosses in Bray Garda Station. Their support has been something else for which I'm so grateful.'

Adam went to Turkey to qualify but came home with a gold medal. He's thanking his lucky stars that he's achieved his goal. It was an emotional night in the half-parish of The Ballagh on Sunday.

It all adds to Wexford's interests at the London Olympics as Model county eyes will also be on the swimming arena where Ballinaboola girl, Gráinne Murphy, will be competing for gold and aiming to bring further glory back to the county.