Belfast Telegraph

Donnelly has already made up for Delhi misery, but now he wants gold

By Steven Beacom

Steven Donnelly makes no bones about it. The Ballymena boxer is seeking 'redemption' in the Commonwealth Games and even points to the word, tattooed on his arm, to make the point further.

Welterweight Donnelly has made it into tonight's semi-finals in Glasgow with impressive performances. At 25, he looks like a boxer coming of age.

It's all a far cry from what happened in Delhi four years ago which, the man himself admits, saw him take a road to oblivion.

In 2010, Donnelly, who by that stage had already won three Ulster Senior Championship titles, was considered one of Northern Ireland's bright young things and a serious medal hope.

Heavily beaten in his opening bout by Australian Luke Woods, he was devastated for himself, his family, his friends and the fan base he had built up.

Later, Donnelly would admit he overdid his work in the pre-Games training camps and was burnt out by the time he reached the heat of India.

In Delhi, trying to come to terms with his demoralising defeat, he and a team-mate decided to have a few drinks in the Athletes' Village. The Team NI management were so incensed by their behaviour that a meeting early the next morning ended with the pair being sent home on the first available plane.

Back in Ballymena, Donnelly became disillusioned with boxing and quit the ring. He continued to use alcohol as a comfort, got into fights, was barred from pubs and had a brush or two with the law.

Missing the discipline that boxing can bring young men, he was having arguments with those close to him and admitted to feeling 'depressed'.

What he needed was to get back in the ring to provide some direction in his life. After much soul searching he returned to the All Saints Boxing Club in Ballymena and apologised to those inside the gym for letting them down.

When Donnelly put on a pair of gloves again after an absence of two years, he found the natural ability was still there. His talent, combined with months and months of hard work, has got him to where he is now... and he is not finished yet. A bronze medal is guaranteed, but he wants more.

"I'm here for gold. That's the colour I'm after," said Donnelly.

On Wednesday night Donnelly proved too good for world number eight Custio Clayton from Canada.

In his semi-final tonight the Northern Ireland boxer takes on India's Mandeep Jangra.

What a turnaround it will be if the Ulsterman prevails. The way he is fighting in Scotland, with so much class and desire, there is every chance we'll see him in Saturday's final, four years after he was sent home in disgrace.

"That was meant to be. It's been quite a story for me and now I'm looking to finish it with a happy ending," he says, firmly believing his dream will come true.

"That's why I got a redemption tattoo. I've used the disappointment in Delhi to come back to the Commonwealth Games four years later and now I'm planning to win gold.

"I've put a lot of hard work and dedication into this, like all the boxers on the Northern Ireland team. We are all spurring each other on and hopefully everyone can do the business on Friday."

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