Glasgow 2014: Boxers lead Northern Ireland medal challenge

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes
Boxers Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes both won Olympic bronze medals in London

The Northern Ireland team have travelled to the Commonwealth Games optimistic that they can better the 10 medals achieved in Delhi four years ago.

Boxing accounted for all three golds in India and two-times Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes returns for another tilt at Commonwealth glory after his light-flyweight triumph in 2010.

While the vagaries of the draw can lead to tricky contests in the early rounds, it will be a major surprise if Barnes doesn't win another light-fly medal and the confident Belfast man will be disappointed if the colour isn't gold again.

Barnes's boxing team-mate Michael Conlan has unfinished business at the Commonwealth Games after an early exit four years ago.

The Belfast man regrouped from his Delhi disappointment to win bronze at the London Olympics although he has since moved up from flyweight to bantamweight.

Speaking at the team's departure for Glasgow on Saturday, Conlan said that the only acceptable outcome from the Games for him would be gold.

David Calvert has won eight medals in his previous nine Commonwealth Games

"Last time I lost in my first fight. I was only a boy and I was heartbroken," Conlan said.

Of the other male boxers, Monkstown heavyweight Steven Ward will have hopes of going one better than his silver medal four years ago.

Northern Ireland's two women boxers, as female pugilists compete at the Games for the first time, probably represent even stronger medal contenders than Ward.

Michaela Walsh is being strongly backed to achieve a podium place even though she is in the same division as England's Olympic champion Nicola Adams while Alanna Audley-Murphy is also said to be in terrific form heading into Glasgow.

Northern Ireland's most decorated Commonwealths competitor David Calvert will be in action at his 10th Games after making his shooting debut in Edmonton 36 years ago.

Since then, the 63-year-old has accumulated four gold and four bronze medals, which included his most recent third-place spot in Delhi.

Calvert will compete in the individual full bore event as well as being partnered by comparative youngster Jack Alexander, 22, in the pairs competition.

World champion cyclist Martyn Irvine has to be regarded as a strong medal contender in his main velodrome events, the scratch and points races and the individual time trial, and is also likely to try his luck on the roads in either the time trial or road race.

Irvine's achievements in February of last year as he won the 15km scratch title and pursuit silver within the space of an hour at the World Championships led to him being named as the BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of 2013.

Since then, he has gone to win further European Championship and World Cup medals and the Newtownards man, 29, will fear no-one in Glasgow.

Northern Ireland's 11-strong bowling squad will aim for an improvement from 2010 when Gary Kelly's singles bronze represented the sport's only medal.

Neil Booth will end his international career in Glasgow and will hope to add to three previous medals which include a fours gold from 1998.

The women's bowls contingent includes Ballymena woman Barbara Cameron, who will be aiming for a first Commonwealth medal in her fifth Games.

Swimmer Sycerika McMahon is among Northern Ireland's medal hopes in Glasgow

Derry triathlete Aileen Reid could earn Northern Ireland's first medal on the opening day of competition at the Games.

After injury hindered Reid, 32, in the early part of this year, she appears to be rounding into form judging by her ninth place at the recent World Series event in Hamburg.

A repeat of the brilliant form she showed when taking last year's World Series final silver medal in London would put Reid in strong medal contention although her sport is strong at Commonwealths level.

Northern Ireland have failed to land a track and field medal of any colour since Jackie McKernan and Janet Boyle landed silver medals in 1990 but pole vaulter Zoe Brown looks to have a chance of ending that sequence.

Brown, who will be competing in her fourth Games, has improved her personal best and Northern Ireland record to 4.45m this season and that puts her second in the current Commonwealth rankings behind Australian Alana Boyd.

The 30-year-old Antrim woman has shown a hugely impressive competitive streak in recent weeks as she has grabbed the Irish number one ranking from Tori Pena.

Martyn Irvine won gold and silver at last year's World Track Championships

Nerves have not been a problem thus far for Brown this season and if she maintains that composure, a medal could well be hers.

Other women who will have medal ambitions are squash star Madeline Perry, swimmer Sycerika McMahon and judo hopeful Lisa Kearney.

Perry, now 37, suffered a heartbreaking quarter-final defeat in Delhi after leading by two games and could face her conqueror from four years ago, Australia's Kasey Brown, in the last 16 in Glasgow.

McMahon, 19, leads Northern Ireland's youthful 10-strong swimming squad after winning 50m breaststroke medals at both the European Long Course and Short Course Championships in 2012.

Invariably, swimming is a strong sport at Commonwealth level, but McMahon will be disappointed if she doesn't at least make a final in either the 50m or 100m breaststroke.

Belfast judoka Kearney believes she can emulate Lisa Bradley's medal-winning performance 12 years ago after some impressive performances on the World Cup circuit this season.

Kearney, 25, has moved up a weight division to the -52kg category since her Olympic outing in London.

Top Stories