Katie Taylor guaranteed Irish boxing its 14th Olympic medal since the 1952 Games at the ExCel in London today.
Amid an electric atmosphere, most of which was generated by Irish fans, the Bray BC lightweight saw off the brave challenge of Liverpool southpaw Natasha Jonas from one of the bouts, male or female, of the 30th Olympiad so far.
Taylor, the current World, European and European Union champion, went into today’s four-rounder under enormous pressure to deliver on her Olympic debut.
And amid rousing renditions of Ole, Ole, Ole and the Fields of Athenry, the two-time AIBA World female boxer of the year produced a fantastic performance to register a 26-15 decision over the Merseysider.
This afternoon’s win arrived less than 24-hours after John Joe Nevin secured Ireland’s first medal at the XXX Olympiad with a thrilling victory over Mexico’s Oscar Valdez-Fierro in the English capital.
Taylor will now meet Mayzuna Chorieva of Tajikistan in the semi-finals on Wednesday afternoon.
The Tajik, who Taylor beat 16-6 in the semi-finals of the AIBA World Championships in China earlier this year, eliminated a subdued looking Dong Cheng of China today.
Meantime, as suspected, Ireland’s boxing fans turned the ExCel into Dublin’s National Stadium for Taylor’s Olympic debut.
The last time that an Irish boxer generated such an atmosphere in London, Barry McGuigan, who represented Ireland at the 1980 Olympics, was claiming the WBA World featherweight title at Loftus Road in 1985.
Speaking after her win, Taylor admitted that she was blown away by the support.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable. I knew the support was going to be great, but I didn’t realise it was going to be so great. I just tried to stay calm and composed and I thank God for the victory,”she said.
The Bray woman got off to a flying start and took the first round 5-2, but Jonas finally began unleashing her left in the second, a frame which finished 5-5.
However, Taylor, firing in three-punch combinations, surged ahead in the third and forced Jonas into a standing count off a big right in the fourth en route to what was a comfortable and historic victory for the World number one.
“We’re thrilled with today’s win and delighted to be guaranteed another medal, said Irish team manager Des Donnelly.
“The support for Katie was absolutely incredible. You couldn’t hear yourself think. It was absolutely incredible at the ExCel today and Katie performed brilliantly.”
Taylor has now won medals (14 in total,13 of which are gold) at the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships and European Union Championships.
Today’s victory – which secures the first ever Olympic medal for an Irish female pugilist – also secured Irish boxing a second Olympic medal at lightweight.
Drogheda’s Tony “Socks” Byrne claimed bronze for Ireland in this weight class at the 1956 Games in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Michael Conlan will be the next Irish boxer aiming for at least bronze.
The St John Bosco BC ace is in against France’s Nordine Ouballi, an opponent he has beaten twice, in the flyweight quarter-finals on Tuesday evening.
Taylor and John Joe Nevin are now guaranteed at least a bronze apiece from London 2012.
2012 Olympic Games
July 28th – Last 32
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) beat Dennis Villy Ceylan (Denmark) 21-6
75kg – Middleweight – Darren O’Neill (Ireland) beat Muideen Olalekan Akanji (Nigeria) 15-6
July 29th – Last 32
69kg – Welterweight – Adam Nolan (Ireland) beat Carlos Sanchez Estacio (Ecuador) 14-8
August 1st – Last 16
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) beat Kanat Abutalipov (Kazakhstan) 15-10
August 2nd – Last 16
75kg – Middleweight – Darren O’Neill (Ireland) lost to Stefan Hartel (Germany) 12-19
August 3rd – Last 16
52kg – Flyweight – Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Duke Akeuth Micah (Ghana) 19-8
69kg – Welterweight – Adam Nolan (Ireland) lost to Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia) 9-18
August 4th – Last 16
49kg – Light-flyweight – Paddy Barnes (Ireland) beat Thomas Essomba (Cameroon) 15-10
August 5th – Quarter- final
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) beat Oscar Valdez-Fierro (Mexico) 19-13
August 6th – Quarter-final
60kg – Lightweight – Katie Taylor (Ireland) beat Natasha Jonas (Great Britain) 26-15
August 7th – Quarter-final (8.30pm session)
52kg – Flyweight – Michael Conlan (Ireland) v Nordine Ouballi (France)
August 8th – Semi-final (1.30pm session)
60kg – Lightweight – Katie Taylor (Ireland) v Mavzuna Chorieva (Tajikistan)
August 8th – Quarter-final (8.30pm session)
49kg – Light-flyweight – Paddy Barnes (Ireland) v Singh Laishram (India)
August 10th- Semi-Finals (1.30pm session)
56kg – Bantamweight – John Joe Nevin (Ireland) v Lazaro Estrada-Alvarez (Cuba)
Irish 2012 Olympic squad
49Kg (Light-flyweight) Paddy Barnes (Holy Family BC, Belfast)
52kg (Flyweight) Michael Conlan (St John Bosco BC, Belfast)
56kg (Bantamweight) John Joe Nevin (Cavan BC)
60kg (Lghtweight) Katie Taylor (Bray BC, Wicklow)
69kg (Welterweight) Adam Nolan (Bray BC, Wicklow)
75kg (Middleweight) Darren O’Neill (Paulstown BC, Kilkenny)
Team Manager: Des Donnelly
Coaches: Billy Walsh, Zuar Antia, Pete Taylor
Physio: Conor McCarthy
Strength & Conditioning: John Cleary
Performance Psychologist: Gerry Hussey