Boxing: O'Kane hails Irish clean sweep
Published 11/10/2010 | 17:09
Eamonn O'Kane hailed an historic day for Northern Ireland boxing after all five of the fighters in semi-final action in Delhi made it through to Wednesday night's gold medal matches.
Middleweight O'Kane was joined by light-flyweight Paddy Barnes, welterweight Paddy Gallagher, light-heavyweight Thomas McCarthy and heavyweight Steven Ward in successfully negotiating their last four ties.
Proud captain O'Kane said: "This is an easy team to captain because everybody wants to be the best they can be. All the lads are just on a buzz at the moment - our team is brilliant and to be its captain is a dream."
O'Kane was a comfortable 12-6 winner over Welshman Keiran Harding then watched as Northern Ireland wrapped up their dream day with Ward's surprisingly one-sided 6-1 win over Scotland's Stephen Simmons.
Belfast's Barnes, the reigning European champion and Olympic bronze medallist had got his team underway by taming the local crowd and Indian opponent Amandeep Singh with a straight-forward 5-0 win.
Barnes, who will fight Jafet Uutoni of Namibia in his Wednesday final, said: "I'm over the moon with my performance. I could have thrown more punches but I didn't want to waste my energy for the final."
Gallagher survived a frantic final minute to beat another Indian, Dilbag Singh 5-4 in their welterweight semi-final meaning Gallagher will box for gold against England's Callum Smith.
Gallagher had boxed well behind a tight guard to build a 5-2 lead heading into the last round but a frantic late assault by his opponent left him to cling desperately on as the final seconds ticked by.
Gallagher said: "I was really fired up for it because the Indians can be intimidating but I just focused on the fight. I took it straight to him and it became a bit of a war. The final's another fight - I won't let it get to me."
McCarthy saw off rugged Kenyan Joshua Makonjio, keeping his cool when his opponent temporarily reduced the gap to single point and ultimately skating away in the final round for a 9-4 success.
McCarthy, a Belfast bar-tender, said: "I saw the other boys in the dressing room and it put a bit of pressure on me because I didn't want to be the only one to lose. But that's what makes the difference between top athletes and average athletes."