Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Self-belief, sacrifice, discipline and honesty the secret behind Northern Ireland's staggering success in boxing at Commonwealth Games

It's a simple philosophy, but it's the secret behind Northern Ireland's staggering success in boxing at this Games

Class act: Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan has been very impressive in the boxing ring so far
Class act: Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan has been very impressive in the boxing ring so far

So, just why have Northern Ireland's boxers been so successful in the Commonwealth Games? It's a question being asked all over Glasgow.

With NINE of our fighters already assured of medals and determined to make the finals today, the coach of this record breaking team has provided some answers.

John Conlan, recently appointed as the High Performance Director for the sport in Northern Ireland, says there are four principles that are being adhered to which has led to his son Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Connor Coyle, Steven Donnelly, Sean Duffy, Joe Fitzpatrick, Sean McGlinchy, Alanna Audley Murphy and Michaela Walsh reaching the semi-finals.

"Our principles are self belief, sacrifice, discipline and honesty and every one of our boxers has shown them. These are the attributes of world class athletes," said Dubliner Conlan, who has coached at international level for over 20 years.

"We put a plan in place about four months ago and secured some funding for it and worked really hard at it.

"We had a training camp in Germany, we were in Donegal, we were down in Dublin with the Irish team and finally we had a training camp in Jordanstown for two weeks with New Zealand, Australia and Scotland. We had quality sparring and the boys and girls all listened and trained like professionals three times a day and dedicated themselves to being successful at the Commonwealth Games.

"We put ourselves in the trenches over in Germany against boxers from Germany and Kazakhstan and took a hiding and came back and wanted more and we learned from it. All the while everyone was bonding and we have developed a great team spirit.

"I did expect us to be successful here. To me we are one of the best nations in the world in boxing and the Commonwealth Games is a good stage for boxers from Northern Ireland to show off their skills."

Entering today's semi-finals, the boxers had nine bronze medals in the bank, but that is not good enough for Conlan.

"It's about getting to the final and winning gold. I'm sure some of them secretly are happy to have a medal, but if I hear them saying it they are getting a kick in the backside. Hopefully we'll hear Danny Boy nine times on Saturday," said Conlan, who wants the record breaking exploits of the team to be part of a lasting legacy in Northern Ireland for amateur boxing.

Looking to the future he says: "We have to keep putting money into boxing and using it constructively and having a proper High Performance Unit.

"I want to see us putting in the programmes that can bring boxers from other countries over to Northern Ireland so our kids can experience different styles first hand in training sessions, equipping them for championships all around the world.

"After the 2012 Olympics when Paddy Barnes and Michael won bronze medals we got a bit of funding and the Sports Minister Caral Ni Chuilin has been brilliant for the clubs, but we need to start thinking about funding these boxers competing in Glasgow because most of them, bar Michael and Paddy, aren't funded.

"They have had to sacrifice their jobs and their families. Who is paying the bills when they are here? Nobody. Stevie Ward, so unlucky to lose his opening fight, gave up his job to focus on the Games and other boys have put everything else in their lives on hold to put their heart and soul into it. Somebody has to show real commitment to boxing because you can't keep asking these boys to turn up with nothing behind them otherwise youngsters interested in boxing will play football instead.

"We have had 11 boxers here and the next step should be to take a full team to the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and see them do well, but you need funding to achieve that."

Come tomorrow Conlan and Barnes should be preparing for finals. Donnelly too is looking strong. The rest can deliver too. They have the technique, skills and desire. Most importantly for the coach they have self belief, sacrifice, discipline and honesty.

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