ANOTHER of Ireland's Olympic medal hopes crashed out in Athens last night, when Limerick boxer Andy Lee was beaten by Hassan Ndam Njikam of Cameroon after an agonisingly close four rounds. Lee drew the fight level at 27-27 with the final punch but Hassan was adjudged the winner on the countback system for punches thrown.

It was heartbreaking for Lee, who fell to his knees and thumped the ring canvas in frustration when the decision was announced. "My sharpness and timing wasn't there, " he said afterwards.

"I didn't feel myself in the ring." The 20-year-old middleweight was tipped to become the first Irish boxer to win an Olympic medal since Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough 12 years ago.

Ireland coach Billy Walsh said: "You can see how devastated he is, a young man of 20 years of age. His dream was to be Olympic champion and he could have been close enough to it. He (Hassan) got ahead, then he went on his bike and we had to chase him.

That was the kind of fight Andy didn't want to fight."