Conquering Irish boxing heroes welcomed at airport
Families turn out to see Paddy Barnes, Jason Quigley, Michael Conlon and John Joe Nevin return with four medals
Paddy Barnes (silver), Jason Quigley (gold), Michael Conlon (silver) and John Joe Nevin (gold). Photograph: Inpho/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Another year can only mean another triumphant homecoming at Dublin Airport for Ireland’s amateur boxers.
Ireland’s four medal winners came home last night from Minsk as pound-for-pound the best team in Europe, second in the medal table behind the Goliath that is Russia, which has 25 times the population.
The haul of two gold medals, for Jason Quigley and John Joe Nevin, and two silvers, for Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon, could have been even more had light-heavyweight Joe Ward’s ambitions to win back-to-back European championships not been derailed by, of all things, a clash of knees.
Light-flyweight Barnes was thwarted in his attempt to go for gold by a broken nose.
“My modelling career is still intact,” said Olympic bronze medal winner Barnes, as adept with the jokes as he is with his fists.
The colourful Nevin clan were out in force to welcome home John Joe, who not only won gold in his bantamweight division but was also chosen the boxer of the tournament.
Nevin’s two-year-old son, Martin, was there to welcome home his father, who turned 24 on Friday, as was Nevin’s mother, Winnie.
There was an emotional hug between father Conor Quigley and his triumphant son, who won a surprise gold in the middleweight division.
Jason Quigley sported two black eyes from his epic semi-final battle with Ievgen Khytrov, and was understandably looking forward to the long trek back to Stranorlar in Co Donegal, his own bed and his mother’s home cooking, having been away for four weeks.
“When you are away in these countries, the food can be dodgy enough,” he quipped, a remark that is unlikely to win him plaudits from Belarus tourism board.
His father is head of Ireland’s boxing high-performance coaching unit and also his son’s coach, but could not travel to Belarus because his visa did not arrive on time. “We’re running about pinching ourselves to see if we are still alive. It’s an unbelievable achievement for a young lad who has just turned 22,” he said.