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 Majella Gallagher, managing director of the Irish Exminer and The Echo, presenting the Sportswoman of the Year Award to Irish International boxer Christina Desmond, at the Echo Women in Sport Awards gala luncheon, at the Cork Airport Hotel. Also included are Councillor Derry Canty, deputising for the Lord Mayor of Cork, Jessie Barr, special guest and Diarmuid Vaughan, Cork Airport Hotel general manager.Picture: David Keane.EEjob Echo News/Sport31.01.2020
Majella Gallagher, managing director of the Irish Exminer and The Echo, presenting the Sportswoman of the Year Award to Irish International boxer Christina Desmond, at the Echo Women in Sport Awards gala luncheon, at the Cork Airport Hotel. Also included are Councillor Derry Canty, deputising for the Lord Mayor of Cork, Jessie Barr, special guest and Diarmuid Vaughan, Cork Airport Hotel general manager.Picture: David Keane.EEjob Echo News/Sport31.01.2020
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Cork's Christina Desmond included in 13-strong Irish Boxing squad

CORK welterweight Christina Desmond has been included on a 13-strong Irish squad for the European qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 in London.

The tournament begins on March 13 at the Copperbox Arena in the English capital. At least 40 nations are expected to be between the ropes.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge in London," said Desmond, who boxes out of the Fr Horgan's BC on Leeside.

"There will be tough competition for places at the qualifiers, but I'm confident that I can do well."

Desmond is one of two Munster boxers on the team along with Tipp super heavy Dean Gardiner. Desmond, the current Irish Elite champion and The Echo Sportswoman of the Year, will qualify for Tokyo if she finishes in the top 5 in the 69kg class in London.

Christina Desmond of Fr Horgan, Co Cork, celebrates beating Gráinne Walsh of Spartacus, Co Offaly, in their 69kg bout during the IABA Irish National Elite Boxing Championships Finals at the National Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Christina Desmond of Fr Horgan, Co Cork, celebrates beating Gráinne Walsh of Spartacus, Co Offaly, in their 69kg bout during the IABA Irish National Elite Boxing Championships Finals at the National Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Former World Elite champion Kellie Harrington will line out at lightweight at the qualifiers and current European Elite champions Kurt Walker and Aoife O'Rourke at feather and middle.

Bernard Dunne, IABA High-Performance Director, admitted that with such intense competition for places on the Irish team that it was a challenge to make the final call.

"We have some really good athletes pushing each other for places, so it has been a challenge to select our squad, but we have picked the best team to compete at the first qualifier in London, he said.

"We would be looking for some good performances from our team. We have two opportunities to qualify, London and Paris, so we will review the squad post London.

"Preparations have gone well so far, and we head to Italy on Monday for a sparring camp which will then lead us into the qualifier.

"They've worked extremely hard to get to this point, so if they perform to the best of their ability in London, then that is all we can ask of them."

Team Ireland leave for their final training camp in Assisi, Italy on Monday and return home at the end of the month before heading to London where 77 Olympic places – 50 for men and 27 for women – will be up for grabs in the eight weight classes for males and five for females.

The African, Asia/Oceania, Americas and European qualifiers will be decided next month and early April to complete the Continental qualification process.

There'll be one final World qualifier for Tokyo 2020 in Paris in May.

European Qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 Copperbox Arena London March 13/20 Irish squad:

Male 

52kg - Flyweight - Brendan Irvine (St Paul's, Antrim) 57kg - Featherweight - Kurt Walker (Canal, Antrim) 63kg - Light-welterweight - George Bates (St Mary's, Dublin) 69kg - Welterweight - Aidan Walsh (Monkstown, Antrim) 75kg - Middleweight - Michael Nevin (Portlaoise, Laois) 81kg - Light-heavyweight - Emmett Brennan (Dublin Docklands) 91kg - Heavyweight - Kiril Afanasev (Smithfield, Dublin) 91+kg - Super-heavyweight - Dean Gardiner (Clonmel, Tipperary)

Female 

51kg - Flyweight- Ceire Smith (Cavan) 57kg - Featherweight - Michaela Walsh (Monkstown, Antrim) 60kg - Lightweight - Kellie Harrington (St Mary's, Dublin) 69kg - Welterweight - Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan's, Cork) 75kg - Middleweight - Aoife O'Rourke (Castlerea, Roscommon) 

Five Routes to Tokyo 2020:

Continental qualifiers African: Dakar, Senegal February 20/29 Asian/Oceania: Amman, Jordan March 3/11 Europe: Copper Box Arena, London March 13/24 Americas: Buenos Aires, Argentina March 26/April 3 Final World Qualifier.