European Games: Ireland sevens beat Great Britain 26-12 in final to qualify for 2024 Olympic Games

The Ireland Sevens celebrate victory
Ireland Sevens celebrate their qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics

Ireland beat Great Britain 26-12 in the final of the rugby sevens at the European Games to secure their place at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

James Topping’s European gold medallists joined the Ireland women’s team in reaching next year’s Games.

It will be the second Olympic appearance for the men’s team after their debut at the 2021 Games in Tokyo.

Billy Dardis, Terry Kennedy and Jordan Conroy with two were Ireland’s try-scorers in the final in Krakow.

After a cagey opening some aggressive play and counter-rucking by Ballynahinch’s Zac Ward allowed Dardis to pick up a loose ball to score the game’s first try.

GB were soon back on level terms thanks to a score from Thomas Williams but in added time at the end of the first half, Kennedy showed all his skill and pace to score a vital try that edged Ireland in front.

The second half saw the Irish seize control and they contrived two openings for Conway to stretch his legs and send his side to another Olympics.

With Ireland taking the qualification spot for Paris, Great Britain and Spain will advance to the final repechage next year as they target an Olympic place.

“Qualifying for the Olympics is great and for us as a programme we want to expand the game and for the players it’s a chance to play at an Olympic Games. For us it’s the reward for what has been a pretty good season for us,” said Irish coach, former Ulster winger Topping.

“This is a sport that Irish people can excel at I think although it’s pretty tough. You have to be fast and aggressive and have the heart for it. The guys have jumped on the back of the success of the women last month and it’s fantastic for rugby in the country.”

Ireland men become the seventh team to qualify for Paris 2024, joining hosts France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji, Australia and Uruguay, with the remaining six spots to be determined by regional qualifying tournaments and next year’s World Rugby repechage.

Ireland and Great Britain qualified for the men’s final by winning their respective semi-finals in Poland earlier on Tuesday.

Ballynahinch’s Zac Ward was among the Irish try scorers as they beat Portugal 24-0 while Team GB beat Spain 19-7.

Billy Dardis scored both first half tries for Ireland and added the two conversions for a 14-0 half-time lead. Ward touched down moments after the restart and Jordan Conway added the final score.

Great Britain women’s sevens team claimed gold, and an Olympic place by seeing off hosts Poland 33-0.

Ireland women made history in May by qualifying for their first Olympics.

Irish fans watching the rugby sevens competition in Krakow
There was a loud Irish support for the team in Poland

Irish trio advance to quarter-finals

In boxing, Michaela Walsh is one win away from becoming a double Olympian after a comprehensive 5-0 win over Aysen Taskin from Turkey in the last 16 of their featherweight contest at the European Games in Poland.

There were also victories for flyweight Daina Moorhouse and middleweight Aoife O’Rourke which gives Ireland a remarkable nine quarter-finalists in action on Wednesday, with seven of those boxers a win away from clinching themselves a place at the Paris Olympics next summer.

All six of the women’s team have made the last eight.

Walsh was dominant throughout the bout and her Turkish opponent was overwhelmed by the more experienced and calculating Belfast fighter.

“I feel fantastic, the coaches got the tactics absolutely spot on and I just tried to stick to the plan. I stepped it up a gear as the fight went on and I feel great and it’s special to be part of such an amazing team.

“Everyone is bouncing off each other. Becoming a double Olympian is something I’ve been dreaming about. I’m enjoying this moment but we go again,” said Walsh who faces Melissa Mortensen from Denmark in her quarter-final.

Michaela Walsh competed at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021
Michaela Walsh competed at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021

Moorhouse had been waiting five days to get into the ring for the first time and the Bray flyweight didn’t disappoint as she won the contest over Ukraine’s Tetiana Kob in the first two rounds on route to a 4-1 split decision.

Former world champion Aoife O’Rourke was pushed all the way by Cindy Djankeu Ngamba but made it through 3-2.

Derry’s Eoin McConnell was 27th in the women’s triathlon held over the Olympic distance.

McConnell started strongly and was in third place at the halfway mark of the 1500m swim and only 21 seconds behind the leading duo as she settled into the chase pack for the 40km cycle.

It was only during the last 8km of the bike ride that she fell off the pace and as the rain came pouring down she recorded a time of 38.33 for the 10km run.

Elsewhere on day eight of the Games, at the archery Emma Davis from Keady in County Armagh was beaten 6-0 in the last 64 by Elisabeth Straka from Austria.

At the badminton, Ulster’s Rachael Darragh came from behind in her women’s singles game to defeat her Serbian opponent 2-1. Darragh, who is appearing in her third European Games, made her experience count as she edged out Serbia’s Marija Sudimac in three sets: 13-21, 21-19, 23-21.

The 25-year-old remains in contention to advance to the last 16 despite losing her opening game.

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