Commonwealth Games: Northern Ireland boxers net gold medals
Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games team were celebrating today as boxers Paddy Barnes, Paddy Gallagher and Eamonn O'Kane each won a gold medal.
Barnes added the Commonwealth Games gold to his European title and Olympic bronze medal, beating defending champion Jafet Uutoni 8-4 in today’s final at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium in Delhi.
Paddy Gallagher stepped up a gear in his final round to beat England's Callum Smith 11-6 and claim Northern Ireland's second gold.
Eamonn O'Kane claimed the third gold medal with a win in the middleweight division by way of a surprisingly comfortable 16-4 victory over out-of-sorts Englishman Anthony Ogogo.
It was a momentous victory for light-flyweight Barnes as it was Northern Ireland’s first gold medal in the ring since 1994 when Neil Sinclair and Jim Webb stood on top of the podium.
The Belfast man certainly didn’t have it his own way as the defending champion from Namibia had closed to within a point by the end of the second round before the Holy Family fighter moved through the gears.
In the third round, he made a fast start, connecting with a razor sharp left hook to go 6-4 ahead and then effectively clinched gold with a short right hand.
Barnes said: “I always felt I had the fight under control. I took the foot off the pedal a bit in the second round and he caught me with a few stupid shots.
“But even when the coaches told me I was only one up I knew what I could do and he wasn’t getting past my tight defence and I picked off my shots when I needed to.”
Now Barnes is hoping that he can go on and rule the world next year.
“I rank all the medals together. I’ve won the Commonwealth gold, I’m champion of Europe and next year champion of the world.”
Barnes was hoping that he could be the first of five Northern Ireoland boxers to win gold as Paddy Gallagher, Eamonn O’Kane, Tommy McCarthy and Steven Ward were all in finals.
Barnes was followed into the ring by welterweight Gallagher who was facing England's Callum Smith.
McCarthy was then set to take on Scotland's Callum Johnson at light-heavyweight before captain O'Kane’s bid to wrest the middleweight title from England's Anthony Ogogo who upset the locals by beating Vijender Singh in the semis and then strutted around the ring like Mohammad Ali despite winning without landing a scoring punch.
Heavyweight Ward was to contest the third and final clash between Northern Irish and English boxers when he took on the powerful Simon Vallily, who benefited from a semi-final bye.
Vallily was determined to shake off his troubled past and complete a remarkable journey to sporting redemption.
Five years ago Vallily could never have dreamed of gold.
His boxing promise had waned and his potential career as a footballer had hit a dead-end when he was rejected following trials for his home-town club Middlesbrough.
When he was sentenced to four years in a young offenders' institution in 2005 for an unprovoked
street attack, Vallily's life seemed destined to follow those of so many of his friends and acquaintances into a spiral of self-destruction.
When he returned to boxing in 2008 to win the senior ABAs, he followed a well-trodden path of troubled young men who look to the sport in search of purpose.
Vallily said: “I came from a tough background and like a lot of lads from my area I did get into trouble when I was younger.
“I am sorry for it and I regret what I did.
“Sport and boxing in particular is the only thing I have ever been very good at.”
Newport 18-year-old Sean McGoldrick had to settle for silver after an agonising countback loss to Sri Lanka's Manju Wanniarachchi after the score was level at 7-7 in normal time.
McGoldrick started well and established a 3-1 lead only for his compact opponent to hit back to
level by the end of the first. A brilliant counter-attacking right by McGoldrick midway through the second restored his advantage.
Wanniarachchi dragged the score level with a left but a right hook in response by the Welshman, clearly undaunted by the big occasion, helped him nudge back into a 6-5 lead heading into the final round.
As the last-round action became increasingly wild the Sri Lankan landed two big right hooks to go 7-6 ahead.
McGoldrick fired back to level with half-a-minute remaining to force the score to countback, but having landed another blow he possibly deserved victory.
Meanwhile, in bowls, 22 year-old Gary Kelly has missed out on a place in the singles final after losing his semi to world number two from Australia Leif Selby.
The first set was tied 9-9 when Kelly scored a four on the final end but lost the second 9-7 and now will play-off for bronze.
Victories over Valovale Pritchard of Samoa and Canada’s Ryan Bester yesterday saw him top the standings with a game to spare and move straight to today’s semi-finals.
“I’ve coped quite well with everything especially the intense heat.
“It’s hard concentrating for five or six hours playing three games a day in those conditions but I’ve done it and got there so, so far so good,” said Kelly.
“It’s my first Games and to represent Northern Ireland means a lot to me, and to bring home a medal of any colour would be terrific.”