Belfast Telegraph

CommonWealth Games: Golden moments and silver linings

Jim McDowell looks at Northern Ireland's history in the Commonwealth Games

By Jim McDowell

NORTHERN Ireland heads for the 17th Commonwealth Games lying proudly in 11th place overall in the medals' table, with a collection of 83 medals - 22 gold, 23 silver, 38 bronze - since the Games began at Hamilton, Canada in 1930 where Bill Britton, the sole representative, won hammer silver.

Four years later in London, Cecil Curran, George Watson, Charles Clawson and Percy Watson took bowling silver, the first of seven medals won by the men's fours.

There were no medals in Sydney (1938) or Auckland (1950) but Watson, paired with Bill Rosbotham at Vancouver (1954), struck gold, as Thelma Hopkins leapt high for athletics gold and long for silver.

Since then it has been medals all the way. Currently 37 belong to the boxers, 18 to the athletes, 15 to bowlers and seven to the shooting teams.

Among the winners were those who would become household names - Barry McGuigan and Wayne McCullough, Mary Peters and Mike Bull, Margaret Johnston and Jim Baker, David Calvert and Martin Millar.

Medals range from Ivan Christie's solitary boxing bronze in Perth '62 to a staggering 15 at Edinburgh (1986).

These include Ivan Weir's wrestling bronze (Edmonton '78); archery silver for Janet Yates (Brisbane '82); judo bronzes at Auckland '90 for Joyce Malley and Colin Savage where Alastair Irvine cycled 50km for his, to add to the 100km team time trial bronze shared with Joe Barr, Cormac McCann and Marty Quinn in Edinburgh.

Northern Ireland have had many multiple medal winners and among them Margaret Johnston, who will be in Manchester, highlights the longevity of those at the top in bowls and shooting compared with say, boxing.

She has been able to build on her success after a gold with Freda Elliott in the Women's Pairs at Edinburgh in 1986, to win bronze in Auckland in 1990 and after competing on all 10 days at Victoria (1994) an 'endurance' gold on the final day!

In boxing, Davy Larmour has had two successes, changing bronze in Edinburgh into gold at Christchurch (1974).

Many have turned professional and after golds in Edmonton and Auckland, the 1978 and 1990 winners, McGuigan and McCullough went to the top, while bronze medallists Dan McAlinden ('66) and Gordon Ferris ('74) became British heavyweight champions, while Brian Magee ('98) still plies his trade.

The boxers first entered the ring at Cardiff in 1958 winning five medals - Terry Milligan (gold), Jim Jordan (silver), Peter Lavery, Dickie Hanna, John McClory (bronze) and have not been out of the awards since.

Other golds have gone to Jim McCourt ('66), Gerry Hamill ('78), Jim Webb and Neil Sinclair in Victoria 1994, where it was almost four with silvers for Martin Renaghan and Martin Winters.

Liam Cunningham collected silver last time in Kuala Lumpur and along the way Paddy Maguire ('66), John McKinty ('70), Ken Beattie ('78), Roy Webb ('82) and Roy Nash ('88) plus a flurry of bronze medallions. In 1986 there were five at Edinburgh by Johnston Todd, Chris Carlton, Brendan Lowe, Damien Denny and Pat Tinney to boost the tally.

Rounding off the overall figures of eight gold, ten silver and 19 bronze were Sammy Lockhart and Frank Young ('66), Paddy Docherty ('70), John Rogers ('74), Hugh Russell ('78), Tommy Corr ('82) and Paul Douglas ('90).

In the years 1966, 1970 and 1974 the magnificent individual achievements of the Peters and Bull duo, who between them collected five golds and three silvers, captured the attention as their careers developed worldwide.

They announced themselves at Kingston with shot and pole vault silvers, changed them to gold in Edinburgh where Mary Peters won the penthathlon and provided an unique double of penthathlon and decathlon gold at Christchurch, topped up with a Bull pole-vault silver.

Edinburgh in 1986, again proved popular with the athletes, making it possible for Martin Girvan (hammer) and Janet Boyle (high jump) to win medals at separate games.

Phil Beattie had taken 400 metres gold as Girvan threw silver to add to his previous one in Brisbane. While Sharon McPeake high jumped to second place, Janet had to be satisfied with bronze. Four years later in Auckland there was an amazing six-way tie at 1.88m and she was awarded the silver on countback, with discus thrower Jacqui McKernan taking the same colour.

Away from track and field, full bore rifle shooter, David Calvert has been hitting the target since his first Games, aged 20, in 1978.

Partnering Hazel McIntosh in the Pairs, it was bronze in Brisbane ('82) with the same result alongside Martin Millar at Edinburgh four years on and in Victoria ('94), where he took an individual full bore gold. Shooting's Siamese twins are at Manchester to defend their well-deserved Kuala Lumpur gold.

There was a golden gleam to Tom Hewitt and Tom Allen 's 1994 Open Olympic clay pigeon trap medal, fair reward for Hewitt's perseverance, having shot silver with Eamon Furphy at Edinburgh.

In bowling there has been a remarkable consistencey in the Men's Fours where their bronze in the earlier Edinburgh Games of 1970 featuring John Higgins, Eddie Gordon, Harry Stevenson and Billy Tate was followed by a gold, silver and three bronzes, one for each of the celebrations between 1982 and 1998.

Experience is carried forward with names re-occurring at subsequent stagings.

Brisbane's foursome of Sammy Allen, John McCloughin, Frankie Campbell and Willie Watson launched the run with a bronze and Watson, joined by Billy Montgomery, Roy McCune and Ernie Parkinson, doubled up in Edinburgh.

Then Allen and McCloughin played leapfrog to land in Auckland and share silver alongside Rodney McCutcheon and Jim Baker, who has jumped forward into this year's selection.

When the '94 Games were staged in Victoria, McCloughin was in the bronze winning quartet assisted by Victor Dalls, Ian McClure and Noel Graham.

In the manner of things, McClure joined forces with Gary McCloy, Martin McHugh and Neil Booth to go top with a Kuala Lumpur gold. McHugh and McCloy challenge in the Pairs this time, but on past record don't rule out the four - old hands, Baker, Neil Booth and Noel Graham, joined by newcomer Michael Nutt - to repeat the winning formula.

Back in 1970 Jimmy Donnelly and Syd Thompson supplied a bronze with current world singles champion Jeremy Henry rounding off the haul in Kuala Lumpur. Here's to more medals in Manchester.

Belfast Telegraph

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