Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Conlan is managing expectations around ring warriors

Going for gold: Good pals Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes are hoping to share memories of medal triumphs

Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games boxing coach John Conlan is all too aware of the hopes surrounding his team but believes that comparisons with four years ago are erroneous.

Five boxers returned from the Games in Delhi with medals, three gold and two silvers and one of those – Paddy Barnes – is favourite to make it a light-flyweight double in Glasgow.

But St John Bosco ABC chief Conlan, coaching along with Donegal's Stephen Friel, says his largely inexperienced team cannot be judged by the success or otherwise of previous teams.

"The question about how well this team will do compared with those at Delhi comes up a lot but it doesn't make sense because in these Games we have a completely different scoring system," said Conlan, whose son Olympic bronze medallist Michael is also expected to be on the podium.

"In Delhi it was the computer scoring but it's like professional boxing now they have the 10-point must system.

"Before, boxers could be trained to box to the system and win but it's different now and you have to be more attacking and it's down to the judges to make their mind up who has won the round rather than hitting the button when punches have been landed.

"The headguards have also gone so that changes things as well defensively. So, it's a lot different and we just have to take it one fight at a time and keep our focus and hope we don't get any bad decisions.

"People think that Paddy and Michael just have to turn up to get medals but boxing doesn't work that way."

Conlan, attending his first Commonwealth Games, is naturally hoping that he will be in the corner when son Michael shoots for gold in the bantamweight division but revealed that he has had to banish such thoughts from his mind.

"Of course it has come into my mind but I have quickly got rid of it because I cannot allow myself to get too emotional," he added.

"I treat Michael as just one of the team, he's another boxer who I want to do well and we have a very talented team.

"We've had a great 12-week training camp which started in Germany, we worked in Dublin at the High Performance Centre and we had two weeks at Jordanstown and we have sparred some top boxers.

"I couldn't have asked for more from all the boxers, the team spirit has been fantastic and having the two girls Alanna (Audley-Murphy) and Michaela (Walsh) has been great – the noise level has gone up a notch too!

"They have really come on during the camp and I would say that everyone has gone up a level.

"So now we just hope that everyone can go in and give their best and we'll see how it goes. We know the potential they all have."

Captain Paddy Barnes is also confident that his men and women can rise to the challenge in Glasgow – and has very high hopes for young Walsh.

"Michaela has been fantastic and I think she can go and get the gold medal," said Barnes, a two-time Olympic bronze medallist.

"It's not easy of course but I don't care who she faces, she has the ability to go all the way.

"I don't see why she can't go on to be our Katie Taylor, she's that good.

"We're a pretty young team but the camp has been great, the craic has been good and we're feeling very confident going into the Games."

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