John Conlan admitted he made the difficult decision not to fly home to cheer on his son Michael on his return, stressing that it is important for him to be with the Team NI boxers over the weekend in their quest to win gold medals at the Commonwealth. Games.
Onlan is the highly respected team leader of the Northern Ireland boxing team in Birmingham and has a great influence on the fighters along with head coach Damian Kennedy and the rest of the backstage staff.
Over the course of Saturday at the NEC arena, seven of Team NI’s superb boxers will face off in the semi-finals of the Games – Airianne Nugent, Carly McNaul, Dylan Eagleson, Amy Broadhurst, Aidan Walsh, Jude Gallagher and Mikaela Walsh. On Saturday night in Belfast, Michael Conlan will return to the ring against Miguel Marriaga after a crushing loss to Lee Wood in March.
Back in 2014, one of the most memorable moments of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games was proud father John hugging his son after Michael won gold for Northern Ireland.
Eight years later at the Games, he will watch from afar as his boy fights in a potential world title contender, hoping that by then all members of Team NI will have made it to the gold medals.
“It is important that I am here for this team. This is a huge weekend for us,” said Conlan.
“It was a really hard decision. I was hoping it would work out and I could get over and then fly back the next day, but it’s crazy to have three sessions in the semis and then an early morning session on Sunday – I told Michael I won. get no more.
“But you know what, I raised all my kids to be independent. He doesn’t need me there, I’ll talk to him on the phone, I’ll watch him here. I talked to him when I was in Tokyo for the Olympics (last August when Michael fought TJ Doheny in Belfast), he was in Chicago, in Australia…it won’t change if I’m there or not.”
Conlan Sr. has been an important figure in Northern Ireland boxing for nearly a decade and as chief executive officer of Ulster he is an inspirational character for young people with big dreams.
When asked about his influence on the success of the NI teams during this period, love of boxing shines through, not personal fame.
He said, “I think I would be very selfish if I thought I was a great person capable of this. We have really good children, hardworking children, and it is very difficult now, in the age of mobile phones, TV channels, you can order anything or watch anything – children don’t really need sports anymore.
“Boxing is really critical to get young people involved in the community. Eighty percent of the kids that train have probably never been in international combat, but have learned the basics and had a really good experience.
“The clubs are where we are really strong, we have good structures with Antrim and Ulster Council who work very closely with each other and they are interested in high performance.
“It’s a really good opportunity for us to work with them and then we just polish them. This is not rocket science. These are the basics of boxing. Children play a key role, teach them the basics, introduce them to good international styles, international training camps, competitions at different levels to develop them, and by the time they reach older age, they already have a good experience in boxing.
Of his performance at the Games, NI Head Coach Kennedy says, “This is a great achievement. All our boxers have a lot of abilities. I said before we got here that we were going to shock them – I think we already shocked them, but we’re not done yet. Ask each of the semi-finalists what their dreams and aspirations are, and you’ll get a gold medal.
“Now they have great morale, seven of them together are gaining weight for the semi-finals, they are pushing each other.”