Sky is limit: Michael Conlan
Published 28/03/2014 | 11:00
Michael Conlan has predicted that the Northern Ireland boxing team will be kings of the ring in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, surpassing the stunning efforts of four years ago in Delhi.
Back then a teenage Conlan, having been eliminated early in the competition, watched in awe as Paddy Barnes, Patrick Gallagher and Eamonn O'Kane claimed gold for Northern Ireland with Steven Ward and Thomas McCarthy grabbing silver medals.
It was a fantastic haul for the local boxers, but London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Conlan believes there is better to come in Scotland later this year.
"In the last Commonwealth Games, we were the number one team," says Conlan, now 22 years old.
"We beat England, Scotland and Wales and everyone else and were top of the boxing medal table with three golds and two silvers.
"This time I reckon our team can bring home six or seven gold medals. There is such a buzz around amateur boxing here at the moment that I think all of the boys who compete will fancy getting on the podium."
And that includes bantamweight Conlan himself, who when fighting at flyweight lost in India in the last 16.
"I was only a boy in Delhi, and was still very inexperienced up against senior boxers when I won bronze in London, but now with an Olympic Games, two World Championships and two European Championships behind me I know the game much more," says the Belfast man.
"I'm flying now and am starting to hit my peak. I will go to Glasgow believing I'm capable of winning gold.
"With the event in Glasgow it'll be like London because to us it's virtually a home Games.
"Paddy Barnes, who also won bronze, and myself had great support in London, and I feel the pair of us and the rest of the team will have even more in Glasgow because it won't be as hard to get tickets.
"The packed arena will suit us because we'll relish fighting in a great atmosphere."
One wonders if the Commonwealth Games will be the final act in Conlan's fine amateur career.
He intends turning professional, but has yet to decide when.
Having become a household name for his heroics in London, this bubbly personality has a hankering to go for gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. The alternative, though, is also attractive.
"I will make the decision after the Commonwealth Games. In Glasgow I want to put a wrong right by going all the way because I was beaten in the last 16 in Delhi. That is one of the reasons I haven't turned pro so far," explained SSE Home Nation Ambassador Conlan.
"There is a big incentive to stay amateur until the Rio Olympics but becoming a professional also really appeals to me. It's a big call which I'll make later this year."
Michael's older brother Jamie recently signed a deal with Barry McGuigan's Cyclone Promotions stable.
Jamie will fight on Carl Frampton's world title eliminator bill next Friday at a sell-out Odyssey Arena in Belfast with Michael cheering him on.
The younger Conlan, who last month won a fourth Irish amateur title, says: "Hopefully Jamie can do really well in the future. He's been knocking on the door for a while now but never got the breaks.
"Now he's signed with Cyclone Promotions and is fighting on the Carl Frampton bill so this could be the start of something really big for Jamie.
"I'd love to fight in front of a packed house at the Odyssey one day.
"That would be one of my main goals in the future to sell it out and have all the crowd shouting my name the way everyone is behind Carl."
SSE Home Nation ambassador Michael Conlan recently joined forces with SSE staff in Belfast who took part in a wide range of fund-raising activities for Sport Relief; from 24 hour rowing to A Question of Sport with Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallists.