Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Commonwealth Games: Michaela leads the way in Games' first women's bout

Boxing Camp:  Michaela Walsh and Alanna Audley-Murphy
Boxing Camp: Michaela Walsh and Alanna Audley-Murphy

When Northern Ireland's most well known amateur boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan step into the ring they are normally the centre of attention, but today the pair of them might just have to settle for second billing to young Belfast woman Michaela Walsh.

Tonight Walsh will make history becoming the first Northern Ireland female to compete in boxing at the Commonwealth Games.

It gets better because when 21-year-old flyweight Walsh takes on 19-year-old Thessa Dumas from Mauritius inside the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, it will be the very first women's boxing contest in the history of the event.

Bear in mind in one form or another the Commonwealth Games have been going since 1930, so this is a huge moment for Michaela and her sport.

Alana Audley-Murphy, a close friend of Irish Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor, will also represent Northern Ireland in Glasgow. Her first fight in the lightweight division is scheduled for Wednesday leaving the stage open for Walsh.

The Holy Family club boxer is relishing the Commonwealth Games experience.

"This is the best group I've ever been away with. Normally when we travel it is all girls, but a mixed team is great," says Walsh, who 'tortured' her boxing coach dad to let her take up the sport as a youngster.

"You look and see Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and other up and coming athletes and it gives you a real buzz.

"Everyone is bonding together and we're like brothers and sisters really."

With Northern Ireland's male boxers impressing already, Walsh will be hoping to strike an early blow for the women and while Dumas is an unknown quantity, the Irish champion is expected to come through her opening bout.

Should Walsh, a quarter-finalist in the EUBC European Women's Continental Championships in Bucharest recently, emerge victorious she will fight Sarah Joy Rae from Jamaica in the quarter-finals.

The dream scenario for Michaela and the organisers, given the support Team Northern Ireland has here, would be for her to reach the final and take on England's Nicola Adams for gold.

Olympic champion Adams – who along with revered Irish star Taylor are considered the faces of women's boxing – is due to make her Commonwealth Games debut shortly after Walsh at around 8pm and with both in different sections of the draw a mouthwatering Northern Ireland v England decider is a possibility.

Barnes, who describes Northern Ireland's two women representatives in the ring as "brilliant boxers", has of course been there and dome it having become Commonwealth Games champion in Delhi four years ago.

The north Belfast man believes he will wear gold around his neck again this time and begins his campaign tonight in the Light Flyweight division with a last 16 fight against Hamadi Omari Furahisha from Tanzania.

Fellow London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Conlan is back in action this afternoon following his first round success on Friday. Bantamweight Conlan is expecting his toughest test of the Games when he meets highly rated Indian Shiva Thapa, but believes he can make the last eight.

Also in action tonight in the last 16 for Team NI are middleweight Conor Coyle versus Guyana's Dennis Thomas and Welterweight Steven Donnelly who meets Tonga's Oscar Finau.

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