The agony and the ecstasy

A few miles from the ExCel Arena, stands a giant Tate & Lyle factory churning out that great British food favourite, golden syrup. <

But nothing on its production line can match the sweetness of the success being generated by Irish boxers down the road at these Olympic Games, having captured one gold and on the cusp of grabing another tonight.

Yesterday was the turn of John Joe Nevin to give Ireland’s its now nearly daily feelgood hit.

He booked his place in tonight’s Olympic bantamweight final (8.45pm) against Britain’s Luke Campbell with a sensational performance against the highly regarded Lazaro Álvarez Estrada.

“The script was written but I’ve rewritten it,” Nevin said of his win over the tournament favourite. “I am over the moon. I always said I am up there with the best in the world. I just believed I could beat the best in the world.”

The highlight of the fight came in the final round when Nevin displayed a moment of footwork straight from the playbook of Muhammad Ali. “That was the Mullingar shuffle,” he said, laughing. “Hopefully I can join Katie for the gold. It was amazing to see Katie do so well. No one deserves it more than her.”

Michael Conlan put in a brave display, but came up against the classy 18-year-old Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana.

The Belfast man kept within sight of his opponent until the final round when he inexplicably turned his back on the Cuban, who un-leashed a salvo of punches that left Conlan facing a standing count.

The 20-year-old baby of the Irish boxing team lost 20-10, but goes home with a bronze.

However, there was some bitterness on the day as Paddy Barnes was cruelly denied the chance to box for Olympic gold after losing on countback to China’s Zou Shiming in the light-flyweight division. It means Barnes must be satisfied with bronze for the second consecutive Olympic Games.

The Belfast man admitted he felt “total and utter devastation hearing the result”, having trained so hard.

But the good news stories hopefully won’t end with the boxers. Two of the biggest names of Irish racewalking, Rob Heffernan and Olive Loughnane, will pound the streets of London in search of Olympic glory today.

However, euphoric scenes on the streets of John Joe Nevin’s Mull-ingar were marred by allegations of discrimination against Travellers.

It was reported that his mother, Winnie, and relatives were forced to watch the fight in a pub on the outskirts of the town following a dispute at a pub.

She said she believed that up to 60 relatives would be guaranteed entry to Danny Byrne’s to watch the fight, but claimed on arriving they were informed only 20 could get in.

Pub management denied the claims. “No prior arrangements whatsoever were made and there was nobody told that they were limited,” said a spokesman.

“One of the guys threatened a barman and he was asked to leave and they all left.”

The Nevins eventually watched the fight at the Covert Bar and Restaurant in Multyfarnham.

Meanwhile, Katie Taylor and her fellow Olympians have declined a civic reception in Dublin when they come home on Monday. The city council had planned to erect a platform outside the Mansion House, but the athletes have opted for a small homecoming reception at the airport before heading home.

However, they’re unlikely to turn down a reception with President Michael D Higgins. He has invited them to Áras an Uachtaráin within the next month.


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