"If we’d come out of Turkey without qualification, we’d have sunk" - David Oliver Joyce on finally reaching Olympics

The Athy lightweight is relishing his first Olympic Games and assesses the current state of Irish boxing

"If we’d come out of Turkey without qualification, we’d have sunk" - David Oliver Joyce on finally reaching Olympics

Ireland's David Joyce with his bronze medal on the winners podium Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Mustafa Cavus

David Oliver Joyce has come through a lot to get to this stage in his boxing career.

Bitter disappointments denied him a spot in both Beijing and London, but the Athy boxer is well on the road to Rio after his box-off victory in Turkey this month.

Joyce beat Volkan Gockek on a split decision before dropping to his knees in celebration, the joy difficult to mask.

"The emotion was crazy, I don’t remember it happening. It just happened. I fell to my knees because it’s a lifetime achievement for me" he told Newstalk.com.

"To fight a Turk, in his own back yard is a bit of an uphill battle, but when I got my hand raised in Samsun was unbelievable, there’s no better feeling.

"I’ve been trying to qualify for the Olympics since I was young. Even in the fight against the Turk my emotions took over that. I didn't box 100 per cent the way I could box, but I was over the moon to win. Qualifying is a dream come true for me."

David Joyce celebrates. Image: ©INPHO/Turkish Youth & Sports Press Office

Joyce joins boxers Brendan Irvine, who also progressed after a box-off in Turkey, Joe Ward, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Stephen Donnelly on the plane to Rio.

There are still Irish boxers yet to qualify for this summer's Games, including Katie Taylor, and Joyce stressed how important it was for team morale that he secured qualification in testing circumstances.

"I think we needed something coming out of Samsun. I think if we’d come away without qualification we’d have sunk.

"It would have been a bad atmosphere. But we came away from there with two qualified and unfortunately we should have had another two qualified."

With now just two weeks' rest before training camps with English and Kazakh boxers, there is some time to unwind before full preparations begin.

"I just needed for my body to rebuild. I've had a tense couple of weeks and a crazy couple of weeks with training and I got very sore. But now that I have a week or two off I’ll recover and come back in slowly, but I've got loads of time.

"The championships take a lot out of you. I had four really tough fights in Samsun, it was crazy. I got most of my cuts from the first fight so I had to go three more fights with cuts and with nine or ten stitches.

David Oliver Joyce during his bout against Joseph Cordina. Image: Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ilyas Gun

"That’s the hardest part. People don’t see what goes on behind the scenes after you fight when you go back into the dressing room and you put on the sweat gear and you’re skipping for an hour or 20 minutes.

"People see the ring, the ring’s not hard. The ring is something we've always done and enjoy doing. But when you get out and have all the sweat gear on you and having to train and not eat meals, that’s the worst part.

"After the fight you might be a kilo overweight or a kilo and a half overweight. You need to open up your pores and get the sweat gear on and lose the weight. You can’t just relax you've got to lose the weight for the fight the next day."

Naturally the boxers will face the most pressure of all the Irish Olympians when you consider that 16 of Ireland's 28 medals won at the Games have been won between the ropes.

"I won’t put too much pressure on myself, but I’m not just going to take part in the Olympic games. I’m there to take home a medal. I would not put added pressure on myself, but I want to go and bring something home.

"There will be a little bit of pressure but we will switch off and switch back on. We won’t let the expectation take control of us or the pressure to bother us too much.

"Qualifying a massive relief, it’s something that's been on my shoulders. Now that I've qualified I’ll go to the games and worry about a medal then."

A spot on the plane is already secured and a spot on the podium is the target, but for the moment preparation will no doubt be meticulous for a maiden Olympic Games.