Boxing success in Europe

June 14, 2010

Darren O’Neill, however, will have to be content with silver, after losing out in the European final to the home favourite Arten Chebotarev.

That brings to five the total number of medals won by the Irish at these championships, the best performance by an Irish team in the modern era.

Ken Egan, Eric Donovan and Tyrone McCullagh, who lost yesterday in the semi-finals, all go home with bronze medals.

It’s the first time in 19 years that Ireland has had a European boxing champion, and the overall medal tally places Ireland second on the medals table, behind Russia.

Barnes, a 4-1 winner over Azerbijan’s Elvin Mamishzade, was 1-0 up at the end of the first round, 3-1 ahead at the end of the second and sealed the victory with a final point in the third for 4-1.

‘It’s brilliant. I’m over the moon. I can’t describe how good I am feeling,’ said the Belfast man, who today won Ireland’s first ever gold medal at light flyweight.

Employing the defensive strategy that he has used with great success throughout these championships, the 23-year-old suffered just one hit against him in the three-round final.

‘It was always touch and go,’ he said afterwards. ‘I stuck to the game plan. I knew coming into the fight that I had to close him down, not give him space to breathe.’

Today’s win bridges a 19-year gap since Dublin featherweight Paul Griffin won Ireland’s last gold at this level in Gothenburg in 1991.

Kilkenny middleweight Darren O’Neill, meanwhile, went down to the awesome Arten Chebotarev of Russia.

In an extraordinarily aggressive 75kg final, the Russian had the first score, but O’Neill levelled at one all. At the end of the first round, it was 2-1 to the Russian.

Into the second round, and the two men went toe to toe. It was level at three-all, then four-all. But towards the end of the round, the Russian really went on the offensive, scoring freely in the last 15 seconds, pulling away to lead 8-4.

O’Neill attacked and attacked, but the Russian, bolstered by his lead, was able to stand back and pick his shots, finally winning 16-7.

Afterwards, O’Neill said he was ‘devastated’. He felt that he’d been a victim of ‘home-town scoring’.

The Russians, he pointed out, had won seven golds and insisted: ‘I landed a couple of cracking shots, but got no scores.’

He added, however, that he was delighted to be going home with a silver medal.

O’Neill said: ‘I fought in a European final. I’m in the top two in Europe. That’s pretty good, isn’t it?’

Irish coach Billy Walsh agreed that O’Neill might realistically have scored more.

Walsh said: ‘He gave everything he had. The score didn’t reflect the true nature of the fight, the best fight of the night. I thought it was closer. But you’re fighting a home town boy.’

The Irish coach praised gold medal winner Paddy Barnes.

Walsh said: ‘Tactically, Paddy was superb today. He sticks to the game plan to the letter, didn’t give any scores.’

And speaking about the performance of his team, Walsh added: ‘That’s beyond belief, that we could come second in Russia, behind Russia.

‘It’s a fantastic achievement, I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s nice to be up there and be recognised to be up there with the best in the world. I felt coming in that we had medals on our hands, but I didn’t really think we would do as well as we did.’

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