Commonwealth Games: Who are Northern Ireland's best medal hopes?

By Nigel RinglandBBC Sport NI in Gold Coast
Aidan Walsh and his sister Michaela
Aidan Walsh and Michaela Walsh are the first brother and sister to box at the Commonwealth Games

Northern Ireland's 90-strong team have arrived in Gold Coast with high hopes of making this their most successful Commonwealth Games in Australia.

In four previous competitions Down Under, the best medal haul was in Brisbane in 1982 with three silver and three bronze, while 12 years ago in Melbourne, the last time the Games were held in Australia, the squad won just two silver medals.

Even without the talismanic leadership and experience of Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, the young dynamic boxing team will still be looked to for medals.

Realistically it will be difficult to match the boxers' success in Delhi 2010 (three gold, two silver) and Glasgow 2014 (two gold, two silver, five bronze) but trying telling that to John Conlan's charges.

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Michaela Walsh is determined to upgrade her silver from four years ago, Steven Donnelly and Brendan Irvine have the experience of the Rio Olympics behind them and then there are the young guns led by James McGivern, voted the boxer of the recent Ulster Championships, Kurt Walker and Sean McComb who are all wanting to make their mark.

At 67, David Calvert is competing in his 11th Commonwealth Games dating back to Edmonton in 1978. He's looking to add to his medal tally of four gold and four bronze and has high hopes individually and in the pairs with Jack Alexander.

The bowlers have won medals in every Games since 1982, and with the experience of previous gold medal winners Martin McHugh and Ian McClure leading the team, they will be striving to maintain that proud tradition with the goal of winning a first ever gold in Australia.

Zak Wilson
Nineteen-year-old Zak Wilson from Newtownabbey is on the Northern Ireland table tennis team

Eighteen-year-old gymnasts Rhys McClenaghan and Ewan McAteer are both British Masters Champions while McClenaghan added a World Cup medal to his collection in 2017 following a third-place finish on the pommel horse in the GB Championships behind Olympic champion Max Whitlock and Louis Smith.

Another 18-year-old Conor Ferguson, a multiple medal winner at previous Commonwealth Youth Games and World and European Junior Championships, leads the swimming team looking to push for finals places while long jumper Adam McMullen, high jumper Sommer Lecky and hammer thrower Dempsey McGuigan are currently ranked in the top 10 in the Commonwealth and along with Ciara Mageean in the 1500m will be pressing for top eights at least in track and field.

In the velodrome Mark Downey has the ability to beat the best in the Commonwealth as his three World Cup gold medals prove, while 2017 European silver medallist Lydia Boylan will fear no-one.

Overall it's a younger Northern Ireland team, but with greater depth across 13 sports. How will that translate into medals?

Beating that haul of six from Brisbane 36 years ago is a realistic target to aim for - and the odd gold or two isn't out of the question.

Thursday 5 April
Bowler Catherine Beatttie the first Northern Ireland competitor in action in the women's singles against Zambia.
Gymnasts Rhys McClenaghan and Ewan McAteer aim for top 24 performances to make the all-around final and top eight to make the individual apparatus finals.
Russell White and James Edgar go in the men's triathlon.
Northern Ireland's netball team face world number one side Australia.
Friday 6 April
Track Cycling gets underway with Robyn Stewart and Eileen Burns in action in the women's sprint and individual pursuit
The men's 100m backstroke final will hopefully include Conor Ferguson while the men's sprint relay team have high hopes of a top five finish
Saturday 7 April
Men's Individual All-round final - have Rhys McClenaghan and Ewan McAteer secured places alongside the likes of Olympic champion Max Whitlock?
In the velodrome Mark Downey has his first shot at a medal in the men's scratch race while Lydia Boylan goes in the women's points race.
The table tennis team competition and women's singles and fours and men's pairs and triples in the bowling all reach the knockout stages.
Sunday 8 April
It's semi-finals day in the bowling with the medals decided in the men's triples and women's singles.
In track cycling the men's points race provides a strong opportunity for Mark Downey, Marc Potts and Xeno Young while Lydia Boylan and Eileen Burns go in the women's scratch race.
Athletics get underway with Dempsey McGuigan in the men's hammer final while in the pool Conor Ferguson goes in his best event, the 50m backstroke.
It's the final of the men's pommel horse - the favourite event of Rhys McClenaghan.
Ciara Mageean
Northern Ireland's Ciara Mageean goes in the 1500m heats on 9 April
Monday 9 April
David Calvert makes his entrance to the Games on the shooting range alongside Jack Alexander on the first day of the full bore rifle pairs event.
Two more bowling medals in the men's pairs and women's fours.
On the track Ciara Mageean is in the heats of the 1500m while Emma Mitchell goes in the 10,000m final.
On the final day of gymnastics the men's vault final will hopefully include Ewan McAteer.
Tuesday 10 April
Can David Calvert add to his Commonwealth medal collection as the pairs competition comes to a conclusion?
It's quarter-finals day in the boxing - win and you are guaranteed a bronze medal - how many of Northern Ireland's team will have come through to this stage?
The women's 1500m final takes place - will it include Ciara Mageean and Jack Agnew will hopefully be in the men's T54 1500m final on a big night on the track.
Wednesday 11 April
After the pairs competition David Calvert and Jack Alexander begin their challenge in the individual full bore rifle.
More boxing quarter-finals on the card.
Northern Ireland's netballers complete the Pool stages against Fiji - can they beat their 7th place finish from Glasgow?
Thursday 12 April
Gary Kelly and the men's fours and the women's pairs and triples face knock-out match-ups on the bowling green.
Kate O'Connor is in action on day one of the heptathlon while Summer Lecky gets in high jump qualifying.
Mark Downey
Mark Downey's father Seamus and brother Sean competed at previous Commonwealth Games
Friday 13 April
Finals places are up for grabs in the boxing ring as all the semis take place.
At the bowling the men's singles, women's pairs and men's fours medals will be decided.
Northern Ireland's only wrestler Sarah McDaid is in action.
Kate O'Connor finishes the heptathlon and Adam Kirk-Smith goes in the final of the men's 3000m steeplechase.
Saturday 14 April
David Calvert and Jack Alexander shoot for the medals from 1000 yards on the final day of competition.
All the boxing finals take place - how many medals and what colour can Northern Ireland win?
In cycling the road races take place - can Mark Downey's recent success with Team Wiggins count for him in his final event?
Sunday 15 April
Before the closing ceremony Paul Pollock and Kevin Seaward face the daunting marathon course as Northern Ireland's Commonwealth Games come to a close.

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