By Michael O’Neill
Two of Ireland’s Olympic boxing team were visiting City Hall Friday so the Lord Mayor, Alderman Brian Kingston, and a host of schoolchildren could wish them well as they prepare to head to Rio.
The boxers, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, are taking a short break from their preparations and attended a boxing ‘Try-it day’. Children also got a chance to ask the local heroes about their training, strategy, how they began boxing, and their own boxing heroes.
The two have recently returned from a training camp in Baku and soon they head to more training in Dublin – but ahead of that the Lord Mayor wanted to wish them well and invited young people from all over the city to join him in doing so. They also sent good wishes to Brendan Irvine, and Ballymena man, Steven Donnelly, who were unable to make the event at the City Hall.
Alderman Kingston said: “This is a great inspiration to the city, to the next generation of boxers and all our inspiring young athletes. I would like to encourage all young people to ‘dare to dream’ – if you find something you enjoy keep at it and don’t give up.
“Paddy, Michael, Brendan and Steven have dared to dream and now their Olympic dream has become a reality. This has happened through hard work and dedication from them and through the support of their club coaches – this is a proud moment for all of them,” added the Lord Mayor.
“On behalf of the city of Belfast I would like to extend our support to the athletes on your journey to Rio. We will be following you closely as you progress and as a city we look forward to celebrating with you at your homecoming in August,” he added.
Paddy Barnes is the first Irish boxer to have won medals at two consecutive Olympic Games, while Michael Conlan took bronze in 2012 and won Gold at the World Championships in Doha last summer. Brendan Irvine took silver at the European Games and cemented a place in Rio after fighting in Samsun this April, whilst Steven Donnelly is making his Olympic debut following qualification through the World Series of Boxing in December.