Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland boxers bring back a knockout haul of medals ... but boxer Michaela Walsh says she feels cheated

By Maureen Coleman

Northern Ireland has punched above its weight to bring home its second biggest medals haul since the Commonwealth Games started.

Team NI is coming home from Glasgow with 12 medals – two gold, three silver and seven bronze.

The Northern Ireland boxing team, captained by 27-year-old Paddy Barnes, ended the Games with a knockout haul of nine medals from 11 competitors – two gold, two silver and five bronze. There were two podium finishes in bowls – silver in the Men's Triples and bronze in Women's Pairs – while Lisa Kearney took bronze in Judo on Day 1.

Boxer Barnes defeated India's Devendro Laishram on a unanimous 3-0 decision to successfully defend the light-flyweight title he won in Delhi in 2010.

The second gold medal winner, Michael Conlan, crushed England's Qais Ashfaq at bantamweight, also on a unanimous judges' verdict.

Barnes, who made history by becoming the first home nations fighter ever to defend a Commonwealth title, said he was now looking forward to a holiday with fiancée Mari and baby daughter Eireann.

"I'm planning to get away with Mari and the baby because I've been away training so much and really need some down time now," he said.

"We've no big celebrations planned at all, just a wee break to Donegal maybe. My mum and dad have been over with me but it would have been too much hassle for Mari and Eireann to come over. But now I can look forward to getting away for a while and having a rest."

Barnes said his record-breaking success hadn't sunk in yet. And he spoke of his pride in the Northern Ireland boxing team.

"I still can't believe it," he said. "I keep telling myself that I'm a two times Commonwealth Games gold medallist. I'm so proud to be captain of the boxing team. We had 11 boxers and nine medals and the ones who didn't get medals were just unlucky. That's a fantastic achievement.

Meanwhile Michael Conlan's father John said nothing could wipe the smile of his son's face.

"Michael needs to take some time off to rest now because he had such a tough training schedule. Michael is absolutely buzzing today. He had a bad injury and we didn't know how it would go right up to the last minute," he said.

Silver medallist Michaela Walsh will bounce back from her Commonwealth Games disappointment and "go all the way" in Rio, her coach has predicted. Walsh (21) leaves Glasgow with an impressive silver medal – but claimed she was "cheated" by the judges' split decision that made Nicola Adams the Games first female boxing gold medallist.

A clearly upset Walsh later promised to spray her silver medal with gold paint. Walsh's trainer Gerry Storey said he believed the Holy Family boxer had done enough to deserve the gold medal.

"I think if a lot of people watched the fight back they'd come to the same conclusion as me – that she won it, especially in the last round. She was definitely on top.

"Of course I'm disappointed that she did not get the decision and obviously she is too. But she knows it wasn't Nicola's fault. And she'll will go all the way in Rio. We're 100% behind her and believe in her. She's only starting out and there's a lot more to come from her."

Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín paid tribute to the two Belfast men who won gold. She described Barnes as "a wonderful captain for all the boxers and his exploits will no doubt prove an inspiration to all youngsters taking up the sport".

She also paid tribute to Conlan's "tremendous fighting spirit" after he came from behind "to defeat a good English opponent".

The minister added that Walsh could "count herself very unlucky not to have got the verdict".

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds took to Twitter to pay tribute to the gold medallists.

"Well done to Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and all our great boxers on their fantastic achievements today."

While the boxers relax, plans are in the pipeline for a celebratory bus tour for the team.It is hoped they will be paraded around Belfast city centre next Saturday, before the bus heads to Solitude for the Cliftonville/Glentoran kick-off at 3pm.

Further reading

Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan win gold for Northern Ireland at Commonwealth Games  

Barnes quells anthem controversy 

Northern Ireland boxers are the Cubans of the Commonwealth Games 

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