Glasgow 2014: Northern Ireland's Games will be viewed a success

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Glasgow 2014: NI boxing heroes Conlan and Barnes consider next moves

The late rush of nine boxing medals means the Northern Ireland team will return home from Glasgow having produced the country's best Commonwealth Games haul since 1986 in Edinburgh.

Northern Ireland's tally of two gold, three silver and seven bronze is three shy of the 1986 haul of 15 medals but an improvement from the 10 achieved four years ago in Delhi.

This year's performance left Northern Ireland 15th in the medals table, although if one is looking for comparisons, it can be pointed out that Wales, only three spots higher in the table, accumulated 24 more medals.

But there is little doubt that Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games bosses will view the 12-medal tally as a highly successful Games because as recently as 2006, the country took back a mere two silver medals from Melbourne.

The Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Council scrupulously avoided announcing any medals target ahead of this year's Games.

However, it is understood that there was an expectation that the Delhi figure of 10 medals might not be reached so hence the satisfaction within the Northern Ireland team's hierarchy as they prepare to return home.

Northern Ireland's performance at a glance
2014 Glasgow Games: Two gold, three silver, seven bronze
2010 Delhi Games: Three gold, three silver, four bronze
2006 Melbourne Games: Two silver
1986 Edinburgh Games: Most successful NI Games - Two gold, four silver, nine bronze

Of course, it can be pointed out that 75% of Northern Ireland medals were delivered by the magnificent 11-strong boxing team.

But the reality was that if Northern Ireland were going to have a successful Games that it would founded on the achievements of the boxing squad led by the irrepressible Paddy Barnes.

Going into the Games, Barnes and his fellow Olympic medallist Michael Conlan were looked upon as Northern Ireland's gold medal bankers and they duly delivered in hugely impressive fashion.

Indeed, it would be difficult to argue with the view that light-flyweight Barnes was the most accomplished boxer on show throughout all the weights in Glasgow.

Barnes, 27, looked at the absolute peak of his powers as he defeated a very accomplished Indian Devendro Laishram to become the first ever boxer from the home nations to successfully defend a Commonwealth Games title.

Like Conlan, Barnes will now have to mull over whether the time is right to turn professional or to remain as amateur to chase Olympic gold in Rio in 2016.

If one or both of the gold medallist do opt to stay in the amateur fold, they will surely be joined in Brazil by several of Northern Ireland's other Glasgow boxing medallists.

Michaela Walsh feels "cheated" of gold medal

Michaela Walsh, 21, felt "cheated" as she was edged out by England's Olympic champion Nicola Adams in the first ever women's Commonwealth Games boxing final but the Holy Family woman still picked up the first of what will surely be several major championship medals.

Joe Fitzpatrick joined Walsh in clinching a silver with Steven Donnelly, Sean Duffy, Connor Coyle, Sean McGlinchy and Alanna Audley-Murphy taking home bronze as Northern Ireland picked up three more boxing medals than their previous best haul in Edinburgh.

While the majority of Northern Ireland's medals came on the final three days of the Games, Belfast judo star Lisa Kearney, 25, had got her country up and running with an impressive bronze in the -52kg weight on the first afternoon of competition.

Kearney's medal was just reward for several years of toil on the international circuit and came after a season which had threatened to be undone by injury.

A two-day medal lull followed's Kearney's opening bronze but just when a degree of mild concern was beginning to set in, Neil Booth and his colleagues Neil Mulholland and Paul Daly guaranteed themselves a bowls medal on the opening Sunday which was confirmed as silver a day later following defeat by South Africa in the men's triples final.

Final medals table
15.Northern Ireland23712
29.Isle of Man0101

Barbara Cameron and her pairs partner Mandy Cunningham landed a second bowls medal when they took bronze by beating Jersey in a thriller four days later.

Cameron's joy at winning finally winning a Commonwealth medal at her fifth Games was unrestrained and, if she does follow Booth in confirming her international retirement after Glasgow, it will have been the perfect way to sign off.

But while the record books will indicate a successful Games for Northern Ireland, it was not all plain sailing for the team.

World champion cyclist Martyn Irvine and swimmer Sycerika McMahon endured championships which they will want to forget.

Irvine started the Games by carrying the Northern Ireland flag in the opening ceremony but never got going in the velodrome and produced what he described as a "horrible performance" in his specialist scratch race to round off his dismal week.

McMahon was Northern Ireland's big swimming contender but while many of her younger team-mates showed huge promise for the future with their performances, the 19-year-old Portaferry woman endured a chastening gala as she failed to reach the final in any of her events - including her specialist 50m breaststroke.

Other pre-Games medal hopes, David Calvert, Aileen Reid and Madeline Perry can hold their heads high after narrowly missing out on adding to Northern Ireland's medals tally.

Northern Ireland swimmer Sycerika McMahon mystified by her Games struggles

Competing at his 10th Games, shooter Calvert, 63, finished fourth in the individual full bore event as he just missed out on adding to his remarkable tally of four gold and four bronze at previous Games.

Derry triathlete Reid gave her all as she finished sixth in a strong women's event on the opening day of Glasgow action while squash player Perry, 37, was unable to land the Commonwealth medal that her tremendous career warranted as she suffered a third singles quarter-final defeat in as many Games.

Northern Ireland's netballers, aiming for a top-eight position, secured seventh place thanks to a 58-36 win over Wales.

In terms of hard luck stories, Perry was probably even topped by pole vaulter Zoe Brown whose very realistic medal hopes were washed away on the final Saturday evening as torrential downpours turned her event into something of a farce.

Brown's reaction to her final failure said it all, as she lay crumpled in a heap with her head in her hands at the bottom of the pole vault mat.

While Brown was hit by events beyond her control, it was not a particularly distinguished Games for Northern Ireland's track and field athletes.

Hurdlers Jason Harvey and Ben Reynolds were both clearly inhibited by injury with Paralympic star Jason Smyth also hindered by recent fitness issues although bright spots were Glady Ganiel's 12th place in the women's marathon and Katie Kirk's excellent showing as she improved her personal best in narrowly missing out on a place in the 800m final.

However, one suspects that the struggles of the track and field squad and disappointments of athletes such as Irvine and McMahon will be largely overlooked in the coming week as the boxers and other medallists get their deserved acclaim.

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