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Fab four going for gold after brilliant day at Europeans

Yesterday was another brilliant day for Irish boxing. Four Irish boxers punched their way into the finals of the European Championships that take place today and confidence is high after a series of impressive individual semi-final displays.

Michael Conlan had to wait until the evening session to book his place alongside Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin and Jason Quigley in today's gold standard deciders in Belarus.

Looking relaxed throughout, Conlan punished his southpaw opponent Ovik Ogannisian, a roughhouse Russian who struggled to find an answer to the Belfast flyweight's accurate jab and powerful combinations.

A score of 30-27, 28-29, 30-27 put Conlan through to meet Andrew Selby (Wales) in what promises to be a sensational final today.

Both boxers were defeated in the London Olympics by Cuba's Robeisy Ramirez Carranza. But while Conlan won bronze, Selby, who'd exited in the quarter-final, is No1 in the AIBA rankings.

In yesterday's earlier session, light-flyweight Paddy Barnes got a bloody nose as he stormed to a silver medal against Salman Alizada (Azerbaijan). Opening his account in the first round with a left jab, Barnes landed a crunching body shot with his left fist that had his corner-men (Billy Walsh and Zaur Antia) offering generous encouragement. "That's brilliant, Paddy. Good boy. Keep the head moving. Great jab. He doesn't want to know."

Barnes, boxing like a ferocious thrashing machine, won all three rounds and closed out the bout 30-27.

Like Barnes, his opponent today, David Ayrapetyan of Russia, also won bronze in London. Ranked No1 by the AIBA, he's likely to give Barnes his stiffest test in this tournament.

Yesterday was John Joe Nevin's 24th birthday and Ireland's Olympic bantamweight silver medalist celebrated by defeating the reigning European champion Vladimir Nikitin (Russia).

Nevin won the first two rounds with impressive displays of his counter-punching style. But in the final round, which he lost to an opponent who had vocal support in the stadium, he worried his coaches who urged him to "stay focused".

"I started fast and that was the aim," said the experienced Mullingar native.

"He was piling on the pressure and I knew he would. These Russian boxers are good."

Nevin meets Mykola Butsenko of the Ukraine today.

While Irish sports fans will be familiar with Nevin, Barnes and Conlan, only boxing enthusiasts will be familiar with middleweight Jason Quigley (Finn Valley, Donegal).

A former European Youth and Under-23 champion, Quigley looked calm and composed as he won his opening round decisively yesterday against the current world champion Ievgen Khytrov (Ukraine).

Quigley then won some industrious exchanges and clinched the second round.

Although he seemed to be tiring, Quigley held on for a famous victory (30-27, 30-27, 29-28), which upset his disappointed opponent.

So, Ireland go into the finals today assured of at least four silver medals.

But with none of the four willing to settle for anything less than gold, an afternoon of explosive action is guaranteed in Minsk, Belarus.

The action begins at 12 noon (Irish time).


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