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'Numb' Nolan gets a knockout reception at airport

IRELAND'S seven-man team of boxers arrived home from the AIBA European Olympic qualifiers in Trabzon to cheers from fans and family alike at Dublin Airport yesterday.

They claimed two Olympic berths, plus one gold and two bronze medals, finishing third in the rankings at the 43-nation tournament.

Wexford's Adam Nolan and Belfast's Paddy Barnes, a bronze medal winner at the 2008 Olympics, booked tickets for the London Games.

Welterweight Nolan went all the way, bagging a gold medal after edging out tough German Patrick Wojcicki on a countback.

The pair, who both qualified for London by virtue of reaching Saturday's 69kg final, were locked at 14-14 at the final bell, but Bray-based garda Nolan got the nod on accepted scores.

Barnes qualified for the Games after reaching the light-flyweight semi-finals, and, along with Tommy McCarthy, earned a bronze medal.

However, it wasn't enough to secure a place for London 2012 as there was only one heavyweight place available for Europe.

Nolan and Barnes join Darren O'Neill, John Joe Nevin and Michael Conlan, who qualified at the 2011 AIBA World Championships, on a five-man Irish Olympic squad.


Nolan said: "I feel numb - it's unbelievable to come back to a reception like this; it seems as if half of Wexford is here. It's been an amazing week, something you could only dream about."

The IABA had set a target of five boxers qualified for the Games, and could surpass that total at the AIBA World Women's Championships in China next month. Katie Taylor and the Irish women's team will be aiming for three Olympic berths in the 51kg, 60kg and 75kg classes.

Head coach Walsh reckons the five male Olympians can all deliver.

He said: "We set a target a year and a half ago of five qualifiers - we made that but, unfortunately, we should have had more. Still, I'm certain about one thing - the five lads we have qualified will be a handful for anybody from any country."