Commonwealth Games: Classy lords of the ring Barnes and Conlan really pack a punch
Barnes and Conlan are leading charge for gold
Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan are Northern Ireland's big guns in the boxing squad. It's good to know they are firing like the rest of their team-mates.
The Olympic bronze medallists from London two years ago have moved into the quarter-finals of the Commonwealth Games, and while their fights and performances were contrasting, the outcome was still the same. Win. Or 'W' as Conlan likes to call it.
Barnes and Conlan were joined in the last eight yesterday by middleweight Connor Coyle and welterweight Steven Donnelly.
Already at that stage of the competition were Team NI's flyweight Ruairi Dalton, lightweight Joe Fitzpatrick, light-welter Sean Duffy and light-heavyweight Sean McGlinchy, who did the business the previous evening.
By the end of boxing in the Scottish Exhibition Conference Centre tonight Dalton, Fitzpatrick, Duffy and McGlinchy could all be assured of going home with at worst a bronze medal if they win their respective fights.
Barnes and Conlan only want gold.
Northern Ireland's most successful amateur boxer, and the most outspoken, has watched his countrymen and colleagues get down to work in Scotland since Friday.
Last night it was Paddy's turn to enter the fray. What a way to start.
Tanzanian opponent Hamadi Furahisha may have looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights at times during the light-flyweight contest, but if this was Barnes warming up for what lies ahead, he is going to be worth watching later in the competition.
Barnes, 27, a Commonwealth champion in Delhi four years ago, won by technical knock-out in the third round having dominated throughout.
Tactically astute, Barnes displayed fast hands, quick feet and delivered lightning combinations.
He was in a different league.
Barnes, who will fight Papua New Guinea's Charles Keama tomorrow, said: "It was an easy enough fight. When they were announcing the names he was standing with his arms folded and looked like he didn't want to be there. I knew then he wasn't going to be a danger."
Never short of a joke, the north Belfast man added: "Before the third bell started I felt like it would be better if they had pulled him out. I don't think his coach liked him, he let him come out again!"
Conlan, the world number two at bantamweight, was pleased to beat world number three Shiva Thapa from India on points, despite not performing to his own high standards.
"That performance wasn't my best. I was a bit nervous going into that fight, because I knew it would be my hardest fight, but there is a lot more to come from me," said Conlan.
The fight was a scrappy affair with Thapa given a warning for use of the head in the final round.
Conlan admitted that he fought fire with fire, saying: "When he started using his head, I knew he was going to get warned because he was using it like mad. A few times when I was inside, I clashed heads purposely and hit him with an elbow to hurt him but that's all part of boxing.
"He was being dirty to me so I was being dirty to him. That's part of the game and that's the way it is. If you're not first, you're last."
Barnes and Conlan are extremely confident Northern Ireland will return home with a sackful of medals from the ring. One might belong to Londonderry middleweight Coyle, who was given a unanimous verdict in his victory over Guyana's Dennis Thomas.
"I enjoyed it. I fell asleep in the second round and I knew I had to pick it up in the last. I just felt the pace a bit but I had to dig deep and push on," said Coyle, who has South Africa's Siphiwe Lusizi waiting for him in the quarters.
"I can't wait for the next fight now, another win and it's a medal. The motivation in the team is electric. We push each other on and when someone comes home after a fight we support them."
Donnelly made it a remarkable eight Northern Ireland boxers into the last eight with a comfortable success over Tonga's Oscar Finau.
The Ballymena welterweight knocked out his opponent after 30 seconds in his opening fight in Glasgow.
It took him all three rounds to win second time around with a unanimous decision, but he was still highly impressive with clever footwork and accurate and powerful punching. He will be hard to stop. You could say the same about all the Northern Ireland boxers.