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Class of 2018 going for gold in Gold Coast insists head coach John Conlan

The Northern Ireland boxing team, who leave for the Commonwealth Games in Australia tomorrow, pictured at yesterday's media day in Jordanstown. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

HEAD coach John Conlan has told the class of 2018 not to get too caught up in replicating, or even bettering, the Northern Ireland team’s medal haul in Glasgow four years ago.

Team NI head Down Under in the early hours of tomorrow morning, where they will spend a fortnight training alongside a host of other national teams at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra before heading for the Gold Coast.

Conlan was in the corner as nine Commonwealth Games medals were secured in Glasgow, with son Michael and Paddy Barnes leading the charge by securing gold.

Those two may have gone, both plotting a course through the pro ranks, but coach Conlan has every faith that the new breed – as well as some of the older heads – can make their own mark in the sport.

He said: “When Glasgow came I said ‘forget about Delhi, it’s in the past’. Now Glasgow’s in the past. Different team, different environment, different opponents. Different culture at the time, different style of boxing. We’ve evolved.

“No headgear was the big thing in Glasgow, peek-a-boo in Delhi and now we have the 10-9 scoring, the pro style, so everything changes. You can’t compare this to Glasgow.

“We’ve lost some of our big guys but we’ve also brought in some cracking new kids. We’ve got a great team who are training really hard, they’re totally focused on going and achieving gold medals.”

The boxing competition at the Commonwealths gets under way on April 4, and the training camp in Canberra will provide Conlan and fellow coaches Pete Brady and Damien Kennedy with the opportunity to scout out the opposition first hand.

For the boxers though, the only focus will be on themselves – especially after a visit from 2010 gold medallist Eamonn O’Kane to Jordanstown last week.

“He had Vijender Singh, the world number two at the time, and the superstar Anthony Ogogo at his weight in Delhi,” continued Conlan.

“He watched them and was worrying about meeting them, and then he just thought ‘why am I even worrying about these guys? I’ll focus on myself’. I haven’t even talked to anybody about who’s in their weight or what teams other countries are sending.

“I’ve had a look, I’ve a database there. We’ll be videoing all the fights, we’re videoing all our spars, so we’ll take a little bit from everybody. But I’m primarily focusing on our guys, what they can do good. That’s it.

“We don’t worry about anything else.”

Glasgow was Conlan’s first as head coach at a major international games, but in the time between he has been involved at an Olympic Games, World Championships, European Championships and World Series of Boxing.

He has learned lessons along the way, and feels he and his coaching staff are well placed to get the best out of the 12 fighters going to Australia.

“Everything’s experience,” he said.

“There have been some failures but that’s how you develop and learn. I don’t fret about the small things any more, I always look at the big picture. Sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches.

“Everybody’s worked really hard. There’s nothing more bonding that being completely busted in the corner and looking over and seeing the guy beside you in as bad shape as you.

“As they’ve gone on they’ve supported each other, they’ve gone through the journey. They’ve bonded as a team, the craic is great. We’ve created a really good environment to train and learn.”

Caoimhin Hynes was due to come up against Khalil Coe, America’s number one light-heavyweight, in Boston last night


Ireland were due to take on America last night in the first of a three-fight tour of Boston.

The Irish squad trained at the Jim McNally Gym ahead of the first elite international clash, with Holy Trinity’s Caoimhin Hynes and Oakleaf’s Brett McGinty expected to be in action.

Hynes – who only moved up from middleweight to 81kg for the recent Irish Elite Championships – goes up against Khalil Coe, America’s number one light-heavyweight.

Middleweight Brett McGinty, meanwhile, faces Nikita Ababiy, a Brooklyn native who once sparred world title contender Daniel Jacobs.

Eugene McKeever (Holy Family, Drogheda) and the Clonard pair of Gerard French and Caoimhin Ferguson are expected to feature in the remaining two fixtures.

It is a major test for so many of Ireland’s up-and-coming stars against a USA team led by former Irish head coach Billy Walsh.

After tonight’s show at the Royale Entertainment Complex, it is off to Springfield on Thursday for further action at the Mass Mutual Center. The tour finishes in the New Hampshire city of Manchester – at The Downtown Hotel - on Wednesday, March 21.

There were a host of Ulster fighters in action at the national Boy 4 and Junior 1 and 2 championships in Dublin at the weekend.

Talented Derry lad Cahir Gormley (Maydown Olympic) was among those to progress to the last four of the Boy 4 competition, and he will meet Raging Bull’s Shane O’Brien in the 48kg semi-final on March 23.

Dylan Eagleson, from the St Paul’s club in Belfast, defeated Emyvale’s Aaron Treanor at 42kg to set up another all-Ulster battle against Michael Donohue (St Michael’s).

In the Junior competition, Jude Gallagher (Two Castles) takes on Fiontan Loughlin (St Paul’s) this Friday in a card packed with quality fights.

The semi-finals of the Boy and Junior 1 and 2 championships take place at the National Stadium on March 23/24.

Holy Family’s Jake Tucker will be among those in action that weekend, when he faces Palmerstown’s Jack Young in the 70kg semi-final.

Junior 1 quarter-finals

Friday (5pm start)

J142kg: A Kirwan-Doyle (The Ballagh) v Oisin Mulholland (East Down)

44kg: J Dodd (St Mary’s, Dublin) v D Glynn (Marble City)

50kg: J Gallagher (Two Castles) v F Loughlin (St Paul’s)

52kg: A Clarke (Cabra) v C Kilduff (Togher) v S Doyle (Na Fianna)

52kg: A Thompson (Spartans) v C Reddy (Portlaoise)

52kg: R Downey (Cashen Vale) v E McGarrell (Raphoe)

52kg: O Treanor (Emyvale) v TBC

54kg: J Griffin (Fr Horgan’s) v P Loonam (St Carthage’s)

54kg: E Neeson (Pegasus) v D Clancy (Ballinacarrow)

57kg: J McArdle (Ligoniel) v K Geraghty (Crumlin)

60kg: J McGivern (St George’s) v A O’Connor (Wexford CBS)

60kg: L Hurley (Tramore) v D McDonagh (Claremorris)

63kg: C Walsh (Riverstown) v GArthurs (Gleann)

63kg: J Power (Legacy) v L Mackin (Dealgan)

63kg: R Mulraine Ward (Convoy) v P Vrinceanu (Crumlin)

66kg: S Butler (Riverstown) v K Weir (Raphoe)

70kg: T Ward (Ballina) v D McDonagh (Elite Mullingar)

70kg: D O’Donnell (Charleville) v M Keys (Erne)

75kg: E McClorey (St Bronagh’s) v S Crowley (Arklow)

75kg: T O’Brien (Kanturk) v G Rafferty (St Cianan’s)

91kg: M Ward (Omagh Boys & Girls) v R Stokes (Athlone)

91kg: B Stokes (Crumlin) v C Maher (Brosna)

91+kg: T Roberts (Rudiarius) v C Glynn (Cherry Orchard)

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