It used to be Northern Ireland could bank on their boxers to deliver Commonwealth medals but at the last two Games they have flopped.
Now coaches Michael Hawkins and Stephen Friel are determined to make sure that our ring warriors will be back where they belong — on the podium.
With Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth Games squad receiving the green light to fly out on Monday, Hawkins — in reference to the recent trouble in Delhi and the prospects of his boxers — quipped: “The roof won’t be falling on this team.”
When you consider that the team is captained by Eamonn O’Kane, a 2008 European bronze medallist, has light-flyweight gold medal favourite Paddy Barnes, as well as European bronze medallist Tyrone McCullagh and World junior silver medallist Tommy McCarthy in their ranks anything less than three medals would be a disappointment.
Captain O’Kane has no doubt about the potential of the team who have clearly benefited from their six weeks working with the High Performance Unit in Dublin.
O’Kane said: “I don’t think the talent is any different — you just have to look at the team that went to Manchester 2002, they had Martin Lindsay, Paul McCloskey ... but we’ve had the High Performance behind us and that has made such a difference to Irish boxing.
“We’ve had the best strength and conditioning, the best coaching, a psychologist, everything has been fine tuned and the atmosphere in the team is just great. We’re all pushing each other. We have experienced guys and the younger guys but I’ve seen the younger ones, like Michael Conlan pushing some of the best in the world down in Dublin.
“I really don’t see why we can’t bring home nine medals. Everyone is capable of that.
“The talent in Ireland and Northern Ireland at the moment is just unbelievable. There’s already a lot of medals in this team and I feel really confident that we can have a great Games.”
While the main focus on the Games this week has been around the awful state of the facilities, Hawkins said: “The guys have only been focused on getting ready for the Games and it doesn’t matter who we get in the draw, they’ll all be ready.”
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council last night confirmed the country’s participation in Delhi, stating: “This decision was based upon the most recent information supplied by the Council’s representatives in India together with their recommendation.
“There are ongoing concerns regarding the condition of some of the infrastructure but it is acknowledged that progress has been made over the last few days.
“Assurances have been received that the athletes’ village will be in suitable condition to host the Northern Ireland team when they arrive on Tuesday 28th. Based upon these assurances, the Council is pleased to endorse the decision that the team will depart for Delhi as planned.
“The Commonwealth Games are a chance for Northern Ireland’s athletes to perform on the international stage and every effort has been made to ensure that this opportunity is grasped. The recent events have caused alarm and created difficulties for many of the competing nations but our focus is now on the presentation of Team Northern Ireland at the Games.”