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Paddy Barnes: A hero’s homecoming

By Maureen Coleman

He’s gone a few rounds since he first pulled on a pair of boxing gloves at the tender age of 11.

But according to his trainer Gerry Storey, gold medallist Paddy Barnes was always going to be a knock-out.

Paddy was back home in north Belfast yesterday, celebrating with his family and friends after clinching gold at the European Amateur Championships in Moscow.

The 23-year-old light-flyweight is not only the sixth Irish boxer to secure the top prize at the championships and the first in 19 years — he’s also the first from Northern Ireland to do so.

Mr Barnes first stepped into a boxing ring around 12 years ago when he joined his uncle’s club East Coast, in the fishing village of Ardglass.

When the club closed his father Patrick snr brought him to the renowned Holy Family Boxing Club in Newington in north Belfast, where he met trainer and mentor Storey. “Paddy was about 15 when his dad brought him to me and from the start I could see he had potential,” said Mr Storey.

“He was always going to be a winner. He was so determined and dedicated to his sport and did whatever he was asked to do. I also watched him make a lot of sacrifices too. He got no help or grants and it was a struggle for him and his family.

“But Paddy was not going to let anything stop him and he worked really hard, spending all his time in the gym.”

Mr Barnes represented Northern Ireland at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in |Australia and became the first Irish man to qualify for the World Championships in Chicago, missing out on a bronze medal after he was defeated in the quarter-finals. However, he qualified for the 2008 Olympics in |Beijing and won |Ireland’s first medal of the games, bringing back the bronze to north Belfast.

Mr Storey, who has coached the Irish Olympic Boxing team on four |occasions, said: “After Beijing things changed for Paddy and he became more confident.

“Winning the European Amateur Championships in Moscow was a hard one to win but he’s a different Paddy now, cool, calm, collected. He was determined he was going to do it and I am very proud of him, as is everyone at Holy Family.”

Mr Barnes said he was “over-the-moon” with his win and delighted that his gameplan had come together.

“I said beforehand that I was feeling good and wanted to win gold and that’s what I did,” he said. “Now I’m going to take a rest, have a holiday and then get myself ready for the Commonwealth Games.”

Mr Storey added: “Paddy is proof that what you put in, you get out and I have no doubt he can go on and win medals at the Commonwealth Games and at the 2012 Olympic Games.

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