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Barnes is gold hero in Moscow

AT THE 2010 European Senior Championships, which concluded in Moscow at the weekend, Paddy Barnes bridged a 19-year gap in Irish men's boxing by finishing on top of the 48kg podium on Saturday.

Paul Griffin was the last Irish men's European champion when he won gold in Gothenburg in 1991.

But Kilkenny middleweight Darren O'Neill had to settle for silver after he was beaten 16-7 by home favourite Arten Chebotarev, of Russia, at the Ice Palace.

The gold and silver medal haul -- combined with three bronze-medal wins for Kenny Egan, Eric Donovan and Tyrone McCullagh -- saw Ireland's nine-man squad finish in second spot behind powerhouses Russia in the 42-nation event.

The medal placing confirms Ireland as the top amateur boxing nation in western Europe and fires a warning shot across the bows of the rest of the continent ahead of next year's qualifiers for the London 2012 Olympics.

Irish head coach Billy Walsh, who was working Ireland's corner along with Zuar Antia and Jimmy Halpin in Moscow, also confirmed that Donegal ace McCullagh broke his left hand in the first round of Friday's semi-final defeat to England's Ian Weaver.

But, despite the injury, the 19-year-old Illies Golden Gloves braveheart boxed on against the English champ, who lost out to Germany's Denis Makerov in Saturday's featherweight final. "Paddy was absolutely brilliant in the final and he totally deserves his gold medal. Tactically, he was superb," said Walsh.

"We are absolutely thrilled with the performances of the Irish squad. To finish second behind Russia in Russia is a phenomenal achievement and every member of the squad can be very proud of what they have achieved."


Barnes, 23, from the Holy Family club in Belfast, outclassed Elvin Mamishzade of Azerbaijan, claiming the first round 1-0, increasing his lead to 3-1 by the end of the second, and sealing a 4-1 verdict with a precision left in the third.

The win sees Barnes, who is coached by Gerry Storey at club level, follow in the footsteps of ex-European champs, Jimmy Ingle and Patrick Dowdall (Dublin 1939), Gearoid O Colmain (Dublin 1947), Maxie McCullagh (Oslo 1949) and Griffin almost two decades ago.

The medal haul is Ireland's best return from a tournament that many believe, given the strength of European boxing, is more competitive than the Olympics.