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Kellie Harrington & Christina Desmond strike Gold in Iasi

By Michael O’Neill

It was a great day Friday for the five strong Irish team at the 2017 Nicolae Linca Memorial Tournament in Iasi, Eastern Romania with Golds for both Dublin’s Kellie Harrington and Christina Desmond from the Fr.Horgan’s Club in Cork.

The duo beat Russian opponents, with Harrington getting the better of current European lightweight champion Dariya Abramova and Desmond stopping Iaroslava Iakushina (who is ranked No. 7 in the World at middleweight), early in the third round. Iakushina incidentally has defeated most of the world’s top middleweights in recent years and is thus ranked some 19 places higher than the Cill na Martra woman in the latest AIBA rankings. So a magnificent achievement.

From Iasi, Christina Desmond said: “Today I got to stand for the Irish National Anthem and it felt amazing. I won gold after my Russian opponent retired going into the 3rd round! Thanks for all the support & well wishes. I look forward to travelling home Sunday with my team mates who have all done themselves proud over the last week! #3Golds #OneMoreToGo #TeamÉire ☘️

In the men’s tournament Kiril Afansev also impressed, the Dublin heavyweight recording a first round KO against Romania’s Catilin Cristea to guarantee himself at least silver. Afansev will be in action versus Hungary’s Istvan Dence in Saturday’s 91kg final.

Irish Head Coach Zaur Antia, who is working Ireland’s corner with Jimmy Payne in Iasi, hailed the performances of the Irish trio.

Harrington admitted that Abramova was a tough opponent but said she stuck to the game plan handed to her by Antia and Payne and thought she won every round against an opponent who beat Finland’s Mira Potkonen, in the 2016 European final.

Ireland will be taking home three gold and at least one silver from Romania, as Joe Ward, who won two fights in Iasi, claimed gold after his Spanish opponent Fernandez Camacho pulled out of their light-heavy final with an injury.

Carly McNaul took part in a test match also and put in a top class performance, according to an IABA official with the team. The 51kg  Belfast woman was up against a European medallist at 54kg so will be encouraged by her first major International tournament in an Irish vest especially as many observers felt she had done enough to win her opening bout in the Nicolae Linca Memorial only for the judges to vote 3-2 against her.

The Irish squad are due to arrive home via Dublin Airport at 2.30pm (Terminal 1) on Sunday.

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