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Michael Conlan aiming to strike Euro gold in Bulgaria

By David Kelly

Michael Conlan may not have had the ideal preparation but don't even suggest he is not gunning for gold at the European Championships in Bulgaria.

Olympic bronze and Commonwealth gold medallist Conlan headed off to the event today with his sights on more hardware as well as qualification for the World Championships in October, which are being held in Doha.

The all-action bantamweight, who has already secured his place at the Rio Olympics next year, insists that he will be ready for the best of Europe when the Championships start on Friday, even though the lead-up has been shorter than usual.

"I am going to Bulgaria to win gold - just the way I do when I enter every tournament," said Conlan. "My preparation hasn't been the way it would normally be for a major championships but I need to go to qualify for the Worlds and I feel I am in good enough shape to get the gold.

"After the World Series of Boxing, I got back into training in June, started to tick over and then had a holiday in July. I had a hand injury which stopped my punching for a couple of weeks but I have trained very hard and even on holiday I ran an average of eight kilometres a day.

"I think I'll get better and better as the tournament goes on, it's just a matter of getting back into competition and into boxing three rounds because in the World Series of Boxing I was boxing five rounds at a more controlled pace.

"I noticed the difference when I was working out at the GB camp in Sheffield. I'm looking forward to getting back in there for some tough competition."

Back in April, both Conlan and close friend Paddy Barnes sealed their places in Rio while boxing for Italia Thunder but after four years of travelling the world together, the bantamweight will be flying solo this time.

"It's going to be weird not having the wee angry man there who you can hardly look at sometimes when he's making weight!" added Conlan. "It will be strange not having Paddy or even Sean McComb because the Belfast guys always stick together and Paddy and I always get on very well. We drive each other on, that's the way it has been the past four years when we have gone to competitions and we have matched each other every time with the success we've had.

"I'll have to get on with it and focus on getting through each fight. The fitness is good and it's just a case of the technical bits and timing coming together and I am confident they will."

Irish team: 52kg Myles Casey (St Francis); 56kg Michael Conlan (Clonard ABC); 64kg Dean Walsh (St Josephs/St Ibars); 69kg Adam Nolan (Bray); 81kg Joe Ward (APB); 91kg Darren O'Neill (Paulstown); 91kg+ Dean Gardiner (Clonmel).

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