Confident Conlan ready for Cuban star
Michael Conlan is feeling inspired. Inspired by being an Olympian, inspired by being an Olympic medallist, inspired by other superstars of sport in the athletes' village and inspired by the noise reverberating around the ExCeL arena every time he fights.
In Conlan's 22-18 quarter-final victory over aggressive Frenchman Nordine Oubaali, the crowd were going crazy as the Belfast man secured himself at the very least a bronze medal.
The 20-year-old from the Falls Road said he had never experienced anything like it.
“It was one of the best atmospheres I've ever seen in my life. It was better than any football match, better than anything,” said Conlan, who clearly revelled in the cheers and the vocal encouragement from the Irish fans, producing a superb final round to see off the determined Oubaali.
Immediately after reaching the semi-final, Conlan, in keeping with boxing tradition talked confidently about his next appearance in the ring claiming that there was better to come.
He'll need that improvement with Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana waiting for him tomorrow night with a coveted place in the final at stake.
Carrazana stunned the British fans on Tuesday night when he overwhelmed big home hope Andrew Selby, the number two seed in the flyweight division.
How ironic that we have a Cuba v Northern Ireland tussle at such a crucial stage given that the Cuban boxers, including Carrazana, had their pre-Games training camp in Belfast.
Conlan will be aware that he must start quicker tomorrow than he did on Tuesday.
The score was 5-5 at the end of round one which, as I reported at the time, was generous to the Irishman.
Conlan (pictured), to his credit, didn't pull any punches when
he said he felt fortunate not be behind after the first three minutes and paid tribute to coach Billy Walsh in the corner for telling him some home truths.
“Billy told me to put the boot down as I was a bit quieter than some other fights I've had recently,” said Conlan.
“Thank God he gave me that slap on the head, pushed me on and drove me on to the win.
“I had the big right at the end — my tactics worked in the final round so I was happy with that.”
With Irish supergirl Katie Taylor making her final, Conlan is desperate to follow the first lady of boxing into his.
And he's not alone with team-mate John Joe Nevin thinking along the same lines.
Nevin secured Ireland's first medal of these Games earlier in the week when he reached the semi-finals of the bantamweight class.
He will meet another Cuban, who prepared for London 2012 in Belfast, Lazaro Alvarez, in the last four tomorrow.
The Irish boxer has been receiving support from One Direction singer Niall Horan throughout the Games.
They have chatted on the phone and on Twitter. They grew up 100 yards away from each other in Mullingar in County Westmeath.
Horan certainly won't be the only one one offering support for Nevin.
The Irish are taking over the ExCeL arena.