REVIEW: Northern Ireland’s strong fighting spirt wins throught

A selection of medals from the Northern Ireland boxers
A selection of medals from the Northern Ireland boxers

The Fighting Irish.

Northern Ireland grabbed their first medal of the competition - a bronze - on the judo mat when 25-year-old Belfast girl Lisa Kearney dramatically forced a submission 32 seconds from the end of her -52kg contest against Audree Francis-Methot of Canada.

However, it was in the boxing ring that Team NI came into their own with some inspiring pugilistic performances culminating in a thrilling final day at The Hydro on Saturday.

It was the first time females had boxed at a Commonwealth Games and flyweight Michaela Walsh did not even try to hide her disgruntlement after losing a split decision to England's golden girl, Olympic champion Nicola Adams.

Walsh, 21, came out fighting afterwards when she questioned the veracity of the result.

"I'm heartbroken," she said. "I worked so hard and I felt like I won the fight.

"I feel like I've been cheated but a close fight against the Olympic champion is always going to go her way."

The much more experienced Paddy Barnes showed his class when he successfully defended the light-flyweight title he took at Delhi 2010 by beating India's Devendro Laishram in an explosive final.

It was the first gold medal won in Glasgow by Team NI but the 27-year-old was not impressed by Northern Ireland's anthem, 'A Londonderry Air' - better known as Danny Boy - at the medal ceremony and it sparked a row which threatened to invite into it age-old political conflicts.

Barnes was pictured on television mouthing "that's not my anthem" and afterwards on his Twitter account the two times Olympic bronze medallist was in no mood for backtracking.

He tweeted: "So I said that's not my anthem, so who cares, it's not NI hasn't got one educate yourselves, football is GSTQ (God Save The Queen) so make your minds up!"

The Belfast boxer followed that stream of consciousness comment up by saying: "Im a sportsman I couldn't care about anything else, I'm Irish, doesn't matter if I'm Catholic or Protestant!" then added: "I won that medal for everyone that supports me, Catholics and Protestants alike, I don't care what your religion is! Some clowns out there!"

While the row over that incident had still to ferment, there were more Irish celebrations when bantamweight Michael Conlan beat England's Qais Ashfaq to make up for the disappointment of losing his first fight in Delhi.

"I knew I had to deliver on this big stage," said the 22-year-old. "I knew Ashfaq would be right up for it and what a talented boxer he is, but I had the drive and the heart to beat him."

A never-to-be-forgotten afternoon session finished for the Irish with lightweight Joe Fitzpatrick landing a silver - Northern Ireland's 12th medal of the Games - after losing a ferocious encounter with local hero Charlie Flynn.

Before Super Saturday, though, the Northern Irish boxing team had stocked up on a tidy little medal collection.

Middleweight Connor Coyle, welterweight Steven Donnelly, light-heavyweight Sean McGlinchey, and light-welterweight Sean Duffy all took bronze after losing their respective semi-finals, as did Alanna Audley-Murphy who was beaten by Australia's Shelley Watts in their women's lightweight semi-final clash.

Between the judo and boxing, in the more genteel environs of Glasgow's Kelvingrove Park, Northern Ireland's bowlers showed more of a gentle touch.

Barbara Cameron, 52, and Mandy Cunningham, 50, earned women's pairs bronze after beating their counterparts from Jersey in a nerve-jangling play-off game which could have gone either way.

The victory was Cameron's first medal in her fifth Games and the Ballymena bowler was delighted a 20-year wait had come to an end.

"I've been close before and to finally win a medal is a dream come true," she said. "You never give up on your dreams."

Neil Booth, Paul Daly and Neil Mulholland took the men's bowls triples silver medal after losing 19-10 against South Africa in the final.

Booth said: "You're always disappointed when you get a silver but the guys can be very proud."

However, it will be the battling, belligerence of the boxing, more than the bowling, which will define Northern Ireland's 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.