Northern Ireland’s boxers secured four more medals on a truly sensational Sunday at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium in Delhi.
Eamonn O’Kane, Steven Ward, Paddy Gallagher and Thomas McCarthy are all guaranteed at least a bronze after winning their quarter-finals yesterday as they joined Paddy Barnes in the last four, a magnificent effort put in by the team led by coaches Stephen Friel and Mickey Hawkins.
The semi-finals will all take place today.
Ward’s victory was the sweetest as he beat the local hero Manpreet Singh at heavyweight by a point, 11-10, in a dramatic conclusion that saw the Delhi fighter penalised two points in the final round for holding.
“He was a good referee. He knew what he was doing wrong and was able to pick up on that,” said the Newtownabbey man.
“I am buzzing. It is something that I deserve after eight years of competing.
“I left a job as a carpenter before the squad was picked to train full-time, so it has all paid off.”
He added: “It's a great result and it just shows the level of development in this squad.
“Everyone's here to put in hard work and all the boys have gone out and done us proud. All we have to do now is change the colour of the medals.”
Scot Stephen Simmons stands between Ward and a shot at gold and will hold no fear for the 20 year-old.
Eamonn O’Kane laid the ghosts of Melbourne four year ago to rest when he beat Afaese Fata of Samoa 7-2 on points.
The Dungiven middleweight came close to retiring from the sport after losing out on a Commonwealth medal in 2006 but wanted one more try.
“My emotions are running wild here at the minute. Four years ago I was beaten to a medal by a Samoan so there was a lot of thinking going on before hand but I put in a polished performance and I’m over the moon.
“It’s taken four years to get that vindication but now I have it, happy days,” he said.
O’Kane now faces Kieran Harding of Wales in the semi-finals later today.
“The pressure is off as far as bringing home the bacon but I came here for gold and so there is still pressure. Everybody’s beatable.”
Earlier in the day welterweight Paddy Gallagher came back from a two-point first round deficit to beat Namibia's Mujandjae Kasuto.
Gallagher edged ahead when his opponent was warned for holding, then evading Kasuto's increasingly desperate bombs for a 7-5 win.
“The first round was hard, the other two fights I’ve been up for it and totally focused but I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent going into the ring and then I went a point down and that sort of woke me up.
“Then when the public warning happened I said to myself you’re back in it. I tried to keep a nice tight guard because he was a strong fella and he threw a lot of punches,” said the Belfast man.
Next up is Dilbag Singh of the host nation.
“Everything is possible. I think I’ve proved myself here so far and it just gets harder from here.
“I’ll just do my own thing, at the end of the day it’s not the crowd you’re fighting.
“It may be intimidating but that was the biggest contest I’ve ever been in.
“I’d thought about whether I’d freeze and it would be too hard to handle but I just went in an took it like any other fight. That’s what I’m going to do with the next one.”
Light-heavyweight Thomas McCarthy produced and fine display and showed composure beyond
his nineteen years to overcome New Zealand's Reece Papuni 7-2.
McCarthy said afterwards: “I could afford to take my foot off the pedal a little bit because I knew I was winning comfortably.
“I had to concentrate because I knew he could bang, but I eased off slightly because I knew that I was going to be getting into the ring again tomorrow.”
He’ll now face Kenyan Joshua Makonjio while first in action today looking to set the tone will be Paddy Barnes who has Indian opposition at light-flyweight in the shape of Amandeep Singh.
However, the only blot on the copybook came at bantamweight when Sean McGoldrick from Wales beat European bronze medalist Tyrone McCullagh — |4-3 the final score .
“I struggled to get going and I never found my range but I didn’t think he scored four points, I thought the referee was terrible but what can you do,” he said.
“I didn’t box well so maybe I didn’t deserve to go through but I don’t think he did either.”
So five medals from a team of nine and it’s helped Northern Ireland surpass their pre-Games target of five medals across the board with seven now secured.