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Why Conlan and Barnes Might Be Ireland's Greatest Sporting Double Act

Balls Team
By Balls Team
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When you go through the great duos of Irish sport there's Peter Stringer and Ronan O'Gara, Ruby Walsh and AP McCoy, Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche. Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes might not be there quite yet - but that's all set to change in the next few weeks.

The two are as thick as thieves - both Belfast fighters, both with Olympic bronze medals in their back pockets. They even appeared together on the Late Late Show - the ultimate acceptance in Irish eyes.

Barnes will step off the plane in Rio in less than four weeks' time aiming to become the first Irish athlete ever to win a medal at three consecutive Olympic games. As well as his bronze medals from the Beijing and London Olympics, he's won gold and silver at the European Championships, two Commonwealth golds and a EU Championships silver.
Not bad for a fella who lost his first 12 fights.

Barnes first walked into a boxing gym as an 11-year-old on a Wednesday and had his first fight the following Sunday. It took him a while to get used to it but he's always had the knack of peaking at the right time - his very first win even came in a championships - to become Armagh/Down champion.

He's exceeded those heights since, but winning for winning's sake is no motivation for Conlan and Barnes this time around. Both boxers have young daughters - and if you thought the pair looked hungry in London in 2012 - both fighters reckon they have a lot more to fight for now since they've experienced fatherhood.


Barnes reckons his daughter Eireann, is all the inspiration he needs. Speaking in a stirring Flo Gas video, he said:


My biggest motivation is definitely my daughter. I just want to give her the best life possible.
Everything I now do is for Eireann. Any money I earn, I’m putting it away so she can grow up to be something.

Conlan agrees with his pal Barnes saying his daughter Luisne is his ultimate motivation.

"I box for my family. I have to do everything in my power to be the best I can be for her and give her the best life possible."

The two boxers go way back - Barnes is four and a half years Conlan's senior (Barnes is 29 now and Conlan 24) but both remember the first time they encountered each other as teenagers. Conlan came to Barnes' gym to spar and Barnes, as is his wont, walked up to greet his young challenger.

Conlan didn't even acknowledge him. Gave him the silent treatment. Then they got in the ring together - and though Conlan was game and moved well, Barnes gave him a bit of a lesson.

The pair still spar together to this day - and though Conlan has come on since their first encounter - he still credits Barnes as one of the major reasons for his success today.


"Paddy made me a complete boxer. I learned off him and it's the best sparring you can get. People would pay money to watch us spar. I am the fighter I am today because of him - I can fight as well as box. Before I started to spar with him - I was just a complete mover."

The two are realistic gold medalists in Rio should all go well. Barnes has a diploma in digital marketing and social media (as well as completing a course in sports psychology in DBS) and was the mastermind behind the pair becoming a social media sensation in London with their quest to get pictured with as many celebrities as possible. They managed to nab Andy Murray, Serena Williams and even Usain Bolt.

This time though - it might be the other way around. Two gold medals and the celebrities will be queueing up.




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