They knew that they were going to be fighting close to their home territory, and in front of a lot of friendly fans. Still, the performances by the Irish boxing team at the Olympics would have been eye-popping no matter where they were held.
There were four boxers in all who won medals.
Paddy Barnes may have lost in the semifinals of the light flyweight division, but he did put forth an amazing performance nonetheless. Barnes beat Thomas Essomba of Cameroon and Devendro Singh of India before losing to the defending and eventual Olympic champion Shiming Zou, tying the match in “regulation” before losing via the countback system. Barnes, a former European amateur champion, has now won a bronze medal in two straight Olympiads. He has indicated that he will be aiming for something higher in Rio in 2016.
John Joe Nevin, the Irish Traveler, made clear that “I’d said from the start that I’d give my right hand for a bronze medal,” but he actually did better than that. Nevin beat some tough opponents, including Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez in the semifinals, in order to reach the bantamweight final, where he lost to Great Britain’s Luke Campbell in what was one of the most eagerly anticipated amateur bouts in the U.K. in a long time.
Michael Conlan made a lot of things happen for himself in the flyweight class, moving through two big victories, over Duke Micah of Ghana and Nordine Oubaali of France before losing to eventual Olympic champion Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba, and captured the bronze.
The biggest piece of news for Ireland out of these Games, however, may have happened on the women’s side, where Katie Taylor stamped herself a legitimate superstar. The lightweight has rarely lost as an amateur competitor, and after four European titles and four world titles she capped off her career with a gold medal at the Olympics, where she scored a competitive 10-8 decision over nemesis Sofya Ochigava in the finals to seal the deal. For her efforts, she was voted the best female boxer in the Games.
In case you wanted to know what the gold medal means to Taylor, she summed it up pretty good in talking to reporters: ” I haven’t left it out of my sight. I’ve been sleeping with it and everything. It has been the most incredible two weeks of my life.”
All the boxers were warmly greeted upon their arrival in Dublin, and they have been subject to further receptions ever since.