Boxing champions: Triumphant homecoming a family affair
Bantamweight gold medallist Michael Conlan reckons he’ll be ‘doing the nappies from now on’
We live in a golden age of Irish boxing - and none more golden than the medal around the neck of new world champion Michael Conlan.
He was greeted at Dublin Airport on Friday by his biggest fan, though she does not know it yet, his baby daughter Luisne.
Between them Ireland’s three world medallists – Michael Conlan (gold), Joe Ward (silver) and Michael O’Reilly (bronze) – have five children. They have been away from their families for over a month.
The ones that could walked and the ones too young to walk were handed to their triumphant fathers as they came through the arrivals hall.
Conlan’s daughter took great interest in the shiny medal around his neck. On Wednesday he became the first Irishman to win gold at a boxing world championship, despite being floored in the first round by Murodjon Akhmadaliev from Uzbekistan in their 56kg bantamweight final.
It has been a “rollercoaster year” for the 23-year-old Belfast-born fighter, who has travelled the world looking for Olympic qualification.
He wants the clean sweep of World, European, Commonwealth and Olympic titles. “It feels surreal, I’ve been telling people for so long that I was going to do it. Now that it’s done, it’s just job complete.
“I have another big mission to get that Olympic gold next year,” he said. But for now he intends to “relax” and catch up on parental duties. “I think I will be doing the nappies from now on.”
Joe Ward has also had a year he will not forget, following European gold with a silver in the light-heavyweight category. ‘
His disappointment at being beaten in the world final by the Cuban Julio La Cruz has been tempered by the realisation that he has qualified for the Olympics after failed attempts in the past. His wife Julie-Ann and sons Gerry and Joe Jr greeted him, alongside several fans who had “Joe Ward for Rio” written on their Tricolours.
“It’s an amazing feeling to see all the support and people come out and see us,” he said. “Every time we go away we make history.”
Ward intends to spend a lot of time with his family and then intensify preparations for Rio.
Michael O’Reilly’s mother Theresa and wife Chantelle are not happy about his middleweight semi-final. “It is a complete disgrace. He got totally robbed from the gold medal,” said Theresa. Her son naturally concurred that he was robbed of a place in the final and, as importantly, a place at the Olympics by a unanimous decision in the middleweight category in favour of Hossam Abdin.
But he is philosophical about it and fixed on the two chances he has to qualify for Rio. “A lot of people are starting to think that now [that he was cheated] but there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s boxing.”