John Conlan aiming for long-term gains in Ulster boxing

Ulster High Performance boxing coach John Conlan is aiming to develop fresh new talent
Anthony Gunning

WHILE the focus for Elite boxers will start to set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Ulster High Performance coach, John Conlan says he is looking even further ahead as he begins to unearth a fresh crop of talent.

Next week, 40 young boxers will arrive at the Ulster High Performance Unit at Jordanstown to be put through their paces as plans begin for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and Paris Olympics in 2024.

Recently, one such rising star, John Paul Hale from Star ABC, returned from the prestigious Brandenburg Cup with a silver medal, which shows the conveyor belt is set to continue and he will be one who will arrive at Jordanstown with hopes of progressing to the Elite ranks in the coming years.

There is no resting on laurels in Irish boxing and the results are a reflection on meticulous preparation, so it is no surprise that Conlan is looking as far ahead as six years down the road while many enjoy a summer break.

"We have 40 lads coming up and seven others can't make it this time due to holiday commitments," he confirmed.

"We are looking at specific age groups.

"Some of those lads will be involved with the U18s (national championships), but we are going to work around that for them.

"My thought process is that the Commonwealth Games is over and the Olympic cycle will start to click into gear with the (National) Elites later this year, so we are starting to look at the next Commonwealth Games and Paris Olympics' squad.

"One of the things is that when guys come in at Elite level, sometimes they miss some markers in their development and struggle internationally, so the plan is to try and hit the markers early on, give them a good look at High Performance culture and what it takes to get to the top level."

Two members of the recent Commonwealth Games team, Sean McComb and Steven Donnelly, have since switched to the pro ranks, so not only is there a hole in terms of talent that needs to be filled, but in terms of leadership too.

It will be the task for those who have stayed on and are targeting Tokyo to step up and fill that void, while is also affords the next generation the chance to stake their claim.

"One of the questions is always, 'why is boxing so strong in Ireland?' and one of the answers is that we have consistent talent coming through," added Conlan.

"We need to develop that. There are always good kids coming through, so it's about keeping them in the game long enough to gain that experience to compete at an Olympic level.

"My job is to get as many guys on the Olympic team for Tokyo, Paris and for Birmingham so we are trying to work with that age group specifically for the next few years along with the Elites."

Six silver medals was the outcome of April's Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast and while that was a very decent haul, Conlan admits to being a little disappointed some of those weren't upgraded.

Still, with many competing at their first major championships as senior boxers, they will take much from their run to the podium, but the challenge is now learning those lessons and improving further for the major tournaments over the next few years.

"I wouldn't say I was overly happy, but then I wasn't too disappointed," Conlan admitted.

"If you looked on paper the team we were taking, we maybe overachieved in terms of competing against the GB's, Indians and Australians who had full Olympic squads.

"We were coming in with some number ones, but some reasonable boxers. In terms of that, we did really well.

"We just need to keep improving because they will keep improving."

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