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Northern Ireland boxing clever and eyeing record gold medal haul

By Graham Luney

Northern Ireland are on course to set a new Commonwealth Games gold medal record after a further five boxers triumphed in their semi-finals.

Carly McNaul, Brendan Irvine, Michaela and Aidan Walsh and Kurt Walker have joined Kristina O'Hara in the finals.

Flyweight duo McNaul and Irvine won their bouts comfortably while there were also wins for bantamweight Walker and Walsh siblings Aidan and Michaela.

But James McGivern and Steven Donnelly will have to settle for bronze medals.

Northern Ireland won five gold medals at the 1994 Victoria Games and Rhys McClenaghan got the ball rolling in the pommel on the Gold Coast.

Walsh, who is aiming to better her 2014 Commonwealth silver medal, battled her way to a deserved win over Alexis Pritchard of New Zealand.

"I knew I had won the fight but when I heard split decision it enters your mind," she said.

"It was scrappy and like a wrestling match. I don't box like that. I'm sure we will meet again, she is a brilliant talent and I wish her well in the future.

"I'm buzzing for the final and I won't let it slip through my fingers again. I am here for a gold medal and nothing else. I'm glad to get that one out of the way. This has been my dream for four years, it feels like my Olympic final and I'm not leaving here without the gold medal."

Walsh will face Australian Skye Nicolson in the final today.

McNaul was the first into the ring and the Belfast fighter comfortably beat Christine Ongare of Kenya by unanimous decision - even forcing her opponent to take a standing count - to progress to a gold medal showdown against Lisa Whiteside of England.

"I gave up my job and everything," said McNaul afterwards.

"I couldn't do it without my parents who are at home looking after my boy. This is for you son."

Irvine defeated Scotland's Reece McFadden 4-1 in a keenly contested semi-final and the Rio Olympian will now face Gaurav Solanki of India in the flyweight final.

Walker was the next Northern Ireland fighter to step between the ropes and he had to work hard to earn a split decision victory over Canadian Eric Basran.

The 23-year-old won the contest 3-2 with all five judges marking the fight 29-28 but crucially three of them scored it in favour of the Lisburn boxer, who will now face European champion Peter McGrail of England in the final. Aidan Walsh continued his march towards welterweight gold with a dominant display against Fijian Winston Hill.

The Monkstown Boxing Club fighter registered his third consecutive unanimous decision as he won convincingly on all five cards to set up a final against Pat McCormack of England.

There was disappointment for McGivern, who sank to the canvas in anguish after losing his lightweight bout against India's Manish Kaushik.

The 2015 Commonwealth Youth champion lost 4-1 on a split decision, which means he will return home from Australia with a bronze medal.

But he remained defiant, vowing to improve on his Commonwealth finish in the 2020 Olympic Games. "The bronze? I'm sorry for saying this but it means nothing to me," he said.

"There's only one colour means anything to me. The bronze medal will probably go somewhere in the house - I'll maybe give it to my granny or someone.

"What can you do? Twenty years of age - I've still got more time.

"None of that will be happening in the Olympics.

"There will be no bronze medals there. I want to go home, win the Irish Senior, get myself on that Olympic team and away to Tokyo.

"I thought I landed more and cleaner punches," he said.

Steven Donnelly was leading on four of the five scorecards after the opening round against Vikas Krishan of India but he was unable to maintain the pace as his opponent scored a unanimous points win.

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