Boxing

Comment: Silver success show bright future ahead for young Irish boxers

Carly McNaul, at 28, is one of the more experienced members of Team NI. She won a flyweight silver medal at the Commonwealth Games. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

“ONE NI household won the same amount of medals as the Scotland team! Unreal stuff.”

A tweet from former WBO super-featherweight champion Alex Arthur on Saturday afternoon offered a much-needed dose of perspective after Team NI’s gold medal drive came up short on finals day at the Commonwealth Games.

Edinburgh native Arthur, a gold medal winner at the 1998 Games in Kuala Lumpar, is one of many from neighbouring nations who have looked on enviously at the performances of the Northern Ireland boxers Down Under, where John Conlan’s team came home with six silver medals and two bronze.

And while there will be disappointment that there are no golds coming back from the Gold Coast, the age range of the medallists offers huge hope for the future, especially with an eye on the Tokyo Olympics in two years’ time.

James McGivern and Aidan Walsh, fighting in their first major international competitions as seniors, are 20 and 21 respectively.

Brendan Irvine, now a veteran of an Olympics, a European Championships, a European Games, two World Championships and a Commonwealths, doesn’t turn 22 until next month.

Kurt Walker and Kristina O’Hara are still only 22 while Michaela Walsh is 24. Carly McNaul, at 28, and 29-year-old Steven Donnelly – competing in his third consecutive Commonwealths – are the more experienced heads, and both performed superbly throughout, winning silver and bronze respectively.

Then there’s Sean McComb. There is no doubt that he should have been standing on the podium on Saturday, but the Holy Trinity fighter was unfortunate to lose out to England’s eventual bronze medallist Luke McCormack in his first fight.

At 25, he is another who is expected to make it to Tokyo and will be a genuine medal hope if he does get there.

Let’s not forget that Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, by then established international fighters, were the only two to return home from Glasgow with gold around their necks four years ago.

It is no easy task, and the whole team – including the likes of Damien Sullivan, Stephen McMonagle and Alanna Nihell who didn’t make it to the medal stages – performed well, all bowing out to eventual medallists.

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