Paddy Barnes gets himself into a Tweet storm over anthems

Northern Irish boxer wins Commonwealth gold and keeps fighting his corner

Northern Ireland’s Paddy Barnes celebrates winning gold in the light flyweight category at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photograph: Ian McNicol/Inpho.

Northern Ireland’s Paddy Barnes celebrates winning gold in the light flyweight category at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Photograph: Ian McNicol/Inpho.

Mon, Aug 4, 2014, 06:00

The BBC dedicated six channels to their coverage of the Commonwealth Games. For a conglomerate of minority sports, it got quite a showing.

A corner of the games belonged to Irish boxers. One final performance in Glasgow imperious and in control, Paddy Barnes, the other selflessly brave and tactically perfection, Michael Conlan – the Belfast duo are a two-hand act of alternatively tearing strips off each other and provocative, preening bravado that they somehow pull off.

“He says to me on the way out, I hope you lose,” a smiling Conlan said of Barnes after one of the earlier fights.

Barnes replied with a tweet, when Conlan suffered his first minor cut above his hair line.

Mick Conlans cut on his scalp, hes near crying cuz hel not be able to gel his hair properly all week.”

Gold medals

Barnes and Conlan won their gold medals. Conlan arrived in the ring with a nasty lightening-bolt shaped cut some inches long above his right eye. Fitzpatrick also came into his final with a cut under his left eye, his opponent Scotland’s Charlie Flynn was also cut in the corner of his right eye. The first games with no head guards was telling.

Conlan’s wound, opened the previous day in a head clash, had been glued in place, dollops of Vaseline smeared across his forehead hoping to deflect punches. He went into his bantamweight final against England’s Qais Ashfaq with a giant target on his face.

After each round Conlan’s cut oozed but didn’t open despite his high-risk tactic of attacking Ashfaq and taking the fight to an inside brawl.

“Again the referee says to both of them, ‘watch the old noggin’,” observed Belfast commentator Jim Neilly.

Conlan gambled and won.

Barnes, the first Irishman with back-to-back Olympic medals and now Commonwealth titles, was a machine and as he stood on the podium afterwards to receive his medal, a querulous grin appeared across his face.

“That’s not my national anthem,” he could be seen saying to an out-of-shot official. He confirmed it afterwards in a Tweet. The tune was Danny Boy which goes to the tune of the Derry Air, sorry Londonderry Air, while the NI soccer team use God Save the Queen, which the English team do not use.

The English played Jerusalem, the theme from Chariots of Fire. The Irish rugby team use Amhrán na bhFiann as well as the Phil Coulter number Ireland’s Call. Confused?

It appears some people were and shortly after the medal ceremony was over Barnes posted a tweet to make his point more clearly.

“So I said it’s not my anthem so who cares. It’s not NI hasn’t got one educate yourselves football is GSTQ (God Save the Queen) so make your minds up.”

Furious response

For a comment that wasn’t even heard on television Barnes found himself dealing with some furious response. From Belfast’s Ardoyne, an area of conflict during Orange marches, his podium befuddlement was obviously misconstrued as somehow sectarian.

He didn’t say what his anthem, if any, was but being typically forthright and direct, the light flyweight informed them that the cheesy number, written by Englishman Frederick Weatherly and sometimes sung at funerals, didn’t cut the mustard.

Clearly some people had taken it as the boxer denouncing Northern Ireland. Perhaps they concluded that because he is a Catholic he wanted a Catholic national anthem, which in Belfast is The Soldiers Song, a divisive tune.

Many people would have cautioned Barnes to stand there and be polite. But taking back steps is not what drives the 27-year-old and he reacted. He tweeted again: “I’m a sportsman. I couldn’t care about anything else. I’m Irish, doesn’t matter if I’m catholic or protestant.”

There was little doubt the gold medallist was feeling the tweet heat from his 50,000- plus followers and soon posted another comment that suggested people were deliberately seeing his remark as bigoted or at least calling it divisive along religious lines.

Barnes does not always say things that please people but he is clearly not sectarian: “I won that medal for everyone that supports me, Catholics and Protestants alike. I don’t care what your religion is! Some clowns out there.”

And so it ended Paddy Barnes as always speaking his mind, another gold medal around his neck and long after the final bell was rung still scrapping away.

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