North's young boxers produce the goods in Samoa

Team NI show off their winners' medals from Samoa on Thursday
Neil Loughran

Amateur boxing: Commonwealth Youth Games

ONCE again, it was the boxers who brought home the bacon from Commonwealth competition after picking up half of Northern Ireland’s medal tally at the youth games in Samoa.

At the 2014 Commonwealths in Glasgow it was the boxers who spared Team NI’s blushes when they returned with nine medals (two gold, two silver and five bronze), and the future stars of the sport did the business again yesterday morning.

Old School’s Stephen McKenna, St Georges’ James McGivern and Holy Family’s Aidan Walsh all grabbed gold medals in Apia, while Tiernan Bradley from the Sacred Heart club in Omagh and Oak Leaf’s Brett McGinty landed silver.

That’s five of Team NI’s total medal haul of 10, and three of its four golds.

What makes it all the more impressive is the fact that, at four previous Commonwealth Youth Games, Northern Ireland has failed to land one gold medal.

That hasn’t been down to a lack of talent either, with reigning world champion Carl Frampton and Olympic medallist Michael Conlan both veterans of past youth games.

Conlan’s father John, along with Toome’s Damien Kennedy, was working the Team NI corner out in Samoa, and he said the future of boxing in Ulster is in good hands after an impressive showing.

“When we sit back and reflect, about 12 or 13 weeks ago we started out on this journey, and it’s been a huge learning curve for the lads,” said the Ulster High Performance coach.

“These guys are Tokyo [Olympic Games 2020] potentials. I have no doubt about that. They’ve been away at a training camp is Russia, down in Dublin flat out, and then two weeks in the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport), so there’s been no let up. I’ve loved working with them, and hopefully I’ll be working with them more in the next few years.

“Everything they bring back with them in terms of experience is going to benefit them.”

Light-fly McKenna notched a split decision win over Australian Tyler Blizzard to land top honours, while bantam McGivern cruised to a unanimous decision win over Scotland’s William Stuart.

Light-welter Walsh finished top of the tree after his victory over the Isle of Man’s Mathew Rennie and Conlan admitted that, while he was delighted for the gold-medal winning trio, there was a sense of disappointment for the two silver medallists.

“We gave ourselves a target this morning of five gold medals, so it’s hard for the two guys. They’re disappointed,” said Conlan of Bradley and McGinty, who lost to Thadeus Kato (Papua New Guinea) and England’s Mohammed Akbar respectively.

“I can’t fault them on their performances, they were both very good. Brett was in with a guy who throws a lot of punches, but he was catching a lot of them on the gloves. Papua New Guinea had a big crowd in for Tiernan’s fight so I think that was a factor.

“They’re all good kids. They made a lot of sacrifices over the last few months because they wanted this so badly. The guys all grew into competition as it went along but, the tougher opponent they were in with, the better our guys got.

“The boys are all very close, it’s been a long few months of training, and they’ll be delighted to get home now. They’ve done themselves and everybody back home proud.”


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