Golden Moment as NI’s Medal Heroes Return

The Commonwealth of Northern Ireland boxing champions were greeted with enthusiasm, with a record five gold medals proudly displayed at the gates of Belfast City Airport.

As crowds eagerly awaited the flight from Birmingham to land, young boxing fans from St Paul’s Antrim Amateur Boxing Club practiced their fighting moves while others held up homemade banners.

The magnitude of the feat was made clear when it looked like a plane full of champion boxers had passed through the arrival gates.

Siblings Aidan and Michaela Walsh, Dylan Eagleson, Jude Gallagher and Amy Broadhurst all proudly displayed their medals before sharing hugs with family members.

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Northern Ireland netball captain Caroline O’Hanlon (centre) and her team are greeted by young supporters

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Northern Ireland netball captain Caroline O’Hanlon (centre) and her team are greeted by young supporters

Boxer Carly McNaul, who showed off her silver medal, along with Eireann Nugent, who won bronze, added to the NI team’s record medal haul.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the five gold medalists shared how much their outstanding performance meant to them.

Happy to be home resting after a grueling schedule of fights, Aidan Walsh said he enjoyed the trip with his sister as much as the medal.

“It’s great, the months of training have been long and hard to prepare for the games,” he said.

“It’s just good to be home after a tournament where the whole team performed well.”

Walsh triumphed in the light middleweight division with a unanimous points victory over Mozambique’s Tiago Osorio Muxanga.

When asked if it all seemed real, he added, “It’s just one of those things. When you’re in the middle of training, working hard and focusing on things, you understand.

“Just be grateful. Days like this don’t come too often in your life, so you just have to enjoy every second while they’re here.

“I think if you’re enjoying it and doing what you do best and playing to the best of your ability, the medal is just a bonus, to be honest with you.

“Having a great team and great people around you means a lot to you.”

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Northern Irish boxers Michaela Walsh, Eireann Nugent and Jude Gallagher after arriving at George Best Belfast City Airport


Northern Irish boxers Michaela Walsh, Eireann Nugent and Jude Gallagher after arriving at George Best Belfast City Airport

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Northern Irish boxers Michaela Walsh, Eireann Nugent and Jude Gallagher after arriving at George Best Belfast City Airport

Sharing her gold medal with her one-year-old niece Olivia, Michaela Walsh said the home team’s welcome was “phenomenal”.

“I think it’s just about enjoying the journey one day at a time, being alongside my brother is amazing,” she said.

“Walking away with a gold medal with Aidan is probably the proudest moment of my life.

“I will always remember that. It means the world to our family, my father has been with us since the very beginning of our boxing career.

“So to bring home the gold medal for him and the rest of the family means so much – especially after fighting in Glasgow (2014) and Gold Coast Australia (2018) and coming away with a silver medal.

“It was a great achievement, but just reaching the top of the podium with Aidan on the same day is indescribable.”

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Clann Eireann Netball Club awaits the arrival of the NI netball team


Clann Eireann Netball Club awaits the arrival of the NI netball team

Philip Magowan/Press Eye

Clann Eireann Netball Club awaits the arrival of the NI netball team

Walsh triumphed in the women’s featherweight final, beating Nigeria’s Elizabeth Oshoba by unanimous decision.

She said she hopes her niece will one day look back proudly on her aunt’s success.

“It shows her that she should never give up on her dreams. I failed so many times before and held on, I never gave up,” she added.

“There were times when I had my doubts, but I know I came away with a gold medal and I hope she can build on that in the future.”

Jude Gallagher said he was still trying to make sense of things, having secured gold through an upset after his opponent was unable to fight back.

“It’s starting to feel real now, it really took a few days to figure it out,” he said.

“It didn’t end the way I wanted, with two opponents withdrawing in the semi-finals and the final.

“But seeing the reception we’re walking into now makes it feel real.”

Gallagher said the team was still “buzzing” after finals night.

“The whole attitude of the team throughout the competition has been unreal,” he said.

“We came here hoping for a result like this and that’s what we achieved. It’s great, I’m so happy with everyone in the team.

“I’m proud of my performances, I still had three difficult fights. I felt like myself again in the ring, I came back to boxing very well.

“I feel faster, explosive and powerful so I’m really happy.”

With an upcoming welcome party on the agenda, Gallagher said he is looking forward to the sequel after recovering.

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Amy Broadhurst is welcomed home by her family


Amy Broadhurst is welcomed home by her family

Philip Magowan/Press Eye

Amy Broadhurst is welcomed home by her family

Overwhelmed with requests for photos from fans, Dylan Eagleson said it was “an incredible moment” for him and his family.

He picked up a unanimous points victory over Ghanaian Abraham Mensah in the bantamweight final.

“What a team it was, and what an inspiration Aidan and Michaela are too,” he said. “Two Olympians, so it’s good to admire them.”

Amy Broadhurst, who earned a unanimous points decision victory over Gemma Richardson in the women’s lightweight final, said she is already looking forward to the next challenge, hoping to add to her medal tally in the fall. “I’m thrilled with another gold medal after such a successful year for me,” she said.

“I was training with Katie Taylor, winning another gold medal (at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in Istanbul), the Commonwealth gold medal, it’s definitely a year I won’t forget.

“To see the medals coming home and the talent of the team is incredible.

“You have an Olympic bronze medalist and Dylan Eagleson is exceptional, he’s incredible.”

Of the young fans squealing with delight as the team arrived, she said: “We are doing something good if there are people who really want to be like us.

“It would be different if we got in trouble and set a bad example, we set a good example for the younger guys coming on.”

With three weeks of ‘forgetting about boxing’ on the agenda, she said the next target is the European Championships in October.

“I said at the start of the year that I wanted to do the treble, and now there’s only one to do.”

As Northern Ireland celebrates a record 18 medals, swimmer Bethany Firth and the men’s four-man bowls team also joined in the gold rush.

Paddy Barnes Snr, whose son Paddy Barnes also won gold at the 2010 and 2014 games, said this year’s team was “amazing”. “Success always comes in handy, but our northern clubs here are overflowing like that,” he said.