Rising star Tommy McCarthy is hoping to emerge from the shadows

Rising star Tommy McCarthy
Rising star Tommy McCarthy

Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan have been receiving all the accolades in recent months for their success in amateur boxing.

Barnes – from the Holy Family club in Belfast – is without doubt Ireland’s most successful amateur boxer ever, while pin-up boy Conlan is the new kid on the block with the skills to go the very top of his chosen sport.

But another Belfast boxer – who has kept under the radar – is looking to make his mark and surpass his Ireland team-mates and good friends Barnes and Conlan.

His name is Tommy McCarthy – the slick and skilful heavyweight from the Oliver Plunkett Gym in Belfast.

McCarthy is no novice, having won Ulster honours from the age of 12.

He has also won numerous Irish titles with back-to-back Senior wins in 2012 and 2013.

Add to this a Commonwealth Games silver medal in Delhi and you realise McCarthy has talent.

He is also tipped to win gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.

But what motivates the man who made it through to the last eight at the recent World Championships in Kazakhstan?

“I want to win a major medal, so I can give Barnes and Conlan a hard time,” he jokes.

“We are all good friends but they give me a hard time about not having a major medal in my collection.

“When I am in Paddy’s house he says he is going to the bathroom and then comes back wearing his two Olympic bronze medals. I need to get my hands on a major medal so I have something to have a go at him about.

“But Paddy deserves his success. He is the hardest trainer I have ever witnessed and he is 100 percent committed to boxing.

“He lives the right life, trains hard and he deserves the success he has had.

“Paddy is a legend of Irish amateur boxing – but don’t tell him I said that.”

McCarthy – if you ever meet him in the street – is one of the nicest, most jovial people you could bump into.

He could even be described as a gentle giant - so how did he get involved in boxing?

“I was running home one night in the rain, trying to get home before my curfew and a car pulled up beside me,” he explains.

“The guy in the car was a guy called Seamus Deeds from the Oliver Plunkett club.

“He just said ‘are you big Tommy’s son? Do you fancy giving boxing a go?’.

“I said ‘yes’ and he invited me down the next night, and the rest is history.

“The thing I remember about that first night was that before I had even got changed I loved the place.

“I loved the smell of the gym and the noise. Just everything about it.

“I fell in love with boxing that night and I still love the sport now.”

And after joining the gym at the age of 11, McCarthy showcased the natural ability and talent from an early age.

“I started winning Ulster and Irish titles soon after taking up the sport and nothing beats the feeling of winning something.

“My first fight was against a guy called Gerry Kelly in the Holy Trinity club. I lost the fight that night – but I loved it.

“I did well that night and the other guy had more experience than me, but I had done a good job. I also remember winning my first Irish title and I was only about 12, but I remember saying to myself ‘If I don’t win this I am retiring from the sport’.

“Thankfully I did win and I have been winning Ulster and Irish titles every since,” he added.

And McCarthy is now a member of an Irish team that is feared throughout the world, and he believes they will just get stronger and stronger.

“Ireland are ranked in the top five teams in the World. And Barnes, Conlan and myself are all ranked in the top 10 of our weight divisions.

“The team is flying at the minute but there is more to come from us,” he added.

McCarthy will turn 24 next year and he wants to get his hands on Commonwealth Games gold.

“I won silver the last time – but it should have been gold. I lost in the final in Delhi to a guy I had beaten before, so I was gutted. I want gold in 2014 and that is the only major tournament in 2014 .

“It would be great to win gold – at least that would keep Barnes and Conlan quiet for a while,” he laughed.

There has been talk in recent months of Barnes and Conlan turning professional, and McCarthy says it is something that interests him.

“I have always liked the look of the professional game and a few people have made me offers to turn pro, but I am still waiting on the right offer.

“We will see what happens, but I am now just fully focused on the Commonwealth Games,” he admitted.

And MCarthy has no regrets about entering the Oliver Plunkett gym when he was just 11 years old.

“No none at all. I love it and boxing has been good to me. I just need a major medal and I think I have the potential to get the job done.”