Boxers head hopes of Ulster success as 88 competitors off to Commonwealths
Northern Ireland have announced an 88-strong team of athletes for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The Games are due to take place from April 4 to 15 on Australia's Gold Coast, and the squad, which covers 13 sports, was announced yesterday at the Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey.
Among the traditionally successful boxing contingent are 2014 medal-winners Steven Donnelly, Michaela Walsh and Alanna Nihell.
Ciara Mageean, who missed the 2014 Games in Glasgow as injury hampered her qualification attempt, returns to lead the athletics team's chase for medals in the 1500m race.
Two notable absentees from the 12-strong athletics squad are Amy Foster and Kerry O'Flaherty, who both missed out in the rankings.
Foster reached the semi-finals in the 100m and 200m races at the 2010 Games in India and again reached the penultimate stage of the 100m in 2014.
O'Flaherty finished 11th in the 3000m steeplechase in Glasgow in 2014.
Dromore's Mark Downey leads the cycling contingent, and the multiple World Cup gold medal-winner is joined by six other riders, including national champions Eileen Burns and Marcus Christie.
Among the eight shooters due to represent Northern Ireland is veteran David Calvert, who is preparing for his 11th Commonwealth Games. He has won four gold and four bronze medals in a career that dates back to 1978.
Three para-athletes are included. Wheelchair athlete Jack Agnew is joined by swimmer Barry McClements and triathlete David Kerr.
Every district council is represented by at least four athletes and the cost of taking the team to Australia is £360,000, revealed Team NI's Chef de Mission Robert McVeigh.
Dame Mary Peters said she will be leading the cheers Down Under and explained just what the team can look forward to.
"I'm delighted to be here to congratulate the teams and individuals who are going to the Gold Coast," Dame Mary said at yesterday's announcement.
"My first experience was the 1958 Commonwealth Games, in fact the Empire Games, in Cardiff. When I go as number one supporter to the Gold Coast, it will be my 15th Commonwealth Games.
"I still remember very well staying in an RAF camp outside Cardiff, and the girl I shared with is Bridget Robinson, a javelin thrower, and we are still in touch even though she lives in Texas.
"The friendships that you will make during these games will last you a lifetime.
"The night that Terry Milligan won a gold medal in Cardiff, the whole team was on the bus back to the village singing. I remember that with such affection.
"I hope that everybody who leaves these shores as our ambassadors come back with great memories of a wonderful part of the world and good competition, whether it's a personal best or a medal in your pocket, to inspire the next generation of young people.
"Bon voyage and great success."
Northern Ireland’s Commonwealth Games squad for the Gold Coast:
Aquatics: Calum Bain, James Brown, Curtis Coulter, Conor Ferguson, Jamie Graham, Danielle Hill, Barry McClements, Jordan Sloan, David Thompson.
Athletics: Jack Agnew, Adam Kirk-Smith, Sommer Lecky, Ciara Mageean, Dempsey McGuigan, Adam McMullan, Emma Mitchell, Kate O’Connor, Paul Pollock, Leon Reid, Ben Reynolds, Kevin Seaward.
Badminton: Ciaran Chambers, Sinead Chambers, Rachael Darrah.
Boxing: Steven Donnelly, Brendan Irvine, Sean McComb, James McGivern, Stephen McMonagle, Carly McNaul, Alana Nihell, Kristina O’Hara, Damien Sullivan, Kurt Walker, Conor Wallace, Aidan Walsh, Michaela Walsh.
Cycling: Lydia Boylan, Eileen Burns, Marcus Christie, Mark Downey, Marc Potts, Robyn Stewart, Xeno Young.
Gymnastics: Ewan McAteer, Rhys McClenaghan.
Lawn bowls: Sandra Bailie, Catherine Beattie, Gary Kelly, Andrew Kyle, Simon Martin, Sally McAuley, Donna McCloy, Ian McClure, Martin McHugh, Erin Smith.
Netball: Kyla Bowman, Lisa Bowman, Niamh Cooper, Michelle Drayne, Gemma Lawlor, Noleen Lennon, Michelle Magee, Lisa McCaffrey, Oonagh McCullough, Caroline O’Hanlon, Fionnuala Toner, Neamh Woods.
Shooting: Jack Alexander, Kirsty Barr, David Calvert, Rory Hamilton, David Henning, Stuart Hill, Gareth McAuley, Alexandra Skeggs.
Table tennis: Owen Cathcart, Paul McCreery, Ashley Robinson, Zak Wilson.
Triathlon: James Edgar, David Kerr, Russell White.
Weightlifting: Stephen Forbes, Emma McQuaid, Cameron Montgomery, Rebekah Thompson.
Wrestling: Sarah McDaid.