The Commonwealth Games get underway on July 23 where over from 71 countries will compete in 17 sports over 11 day of world class competition in Glasgow.
The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games are on course to perhaps be one of the most memorable Commonwealth Games ever. From the precision of lawn bowls to the exciting combat of wrestling and judo – from the high adrenaline of track events to the grace and beauty of gymnastics – in 2014 Glasgow will be the stage for a fantastic summer of sport, as well as a massive range of cultural and arts events for everyone.
Northern Ireland has assembled its strongest team ever but replicating the incredible haul of ten medals from the 2010 Games is a very tall order but there are a number of genuine contenders who are ready to challenge the best in the Commonwealth.
We have selected the nine Northern Irish competitors to watch over the two-week competition.
The County Down-born swimmer was one of Team Ireland’s heroes at the London 2012 Paralympics where she won gold at the S14 100 metres backstroke. She has since decided to swim for Team GB. As the Commonwealth Games does not have a dedicated Paralympics section Firth will race in the main event alongside able-bodied contenders.
Steve Donnelly – Boxing
Four years ago the Ballymena boxer arrived in Delhi as a serious medal contender.
However he was ill-prepared for the extreme heat out there a lost his first bout to an Australian. He , along with another teammate, broke team rule’s and left team headquarters went on the town. This resulted in the pair being sent home in disgrace. But his problems were only starting – he turned to alcohol in a bid to fight the resultant depression that went with his Delhi disaster – and this led to bar room brawls and run ins with the police. He is has put this bad batch behind him and arrives in Glasgow next week in the best form of his life.
He won two golds for Ireland at the 2008 Summer Paralympics setting records at the Men’s 100 metres T13 and the Men’s 200 metres T13
Smyth made history as the first Paralympian to compete at an open European championships, qualifying for the semi-finals of the 100 metres. Smyth ran 10.43 seconds, finishing 4th in his heat. He just missed out on the final by finishing 4th in semi-finals in a time of 10.47 seconds. Smyth was selected to represent Northern Ireland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Dehli, but had to withdraw from the team due to a back injury.
Paddy Barnes – Boxing
The double Olympic champion will be hoping to add Commonwealth Games success after winning Gold in Delhi four years ago where Northern Ireland topped the medal haul in the boxing competitions.
Calvert will be attending his 10th Commonwealth Games, having first competed in Edmonton in 1978.
He is Northern Ireland’s most successful competitor with four gold and four bronze medals in the Full Bore Rifle singles and pairs events.
Calvert’s first bronze came at his second Games in Brisbane 1982 and his last in Delhi four years ago.
His gold medals were won in Victoria (1994), Kuala Lumpur (1998) and two in Manchester in 2002.
Martyn Irvine – Cycling
Northern Ireland’s most successful track cyclist will contest four events although he is on the entry list for seven events. He will be participate in the including the road race and the points and scratch races on the track.
Michael Conlon – Boxing
In his debut match at the 2012 Olympics, he defeated Ghanian Duke Mica. In the quarter final, he defeated Frenchman Nordin Ouballi guaranteeing himself a bronze medal. Conlan lost his semi-final bout against Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez
Since the Olympics Michael Conlan is in a different weight class, from 52 kg Flyweight to 56 kg Bantamweight. He is currently in the AIBA rankings at two.
Louise Aiken – Shooting
The Dromore girl also competed in 2006, when she was the Northern Ireland flag-bearer in Melbourne, and also in Delhi in 2010.
Madeline Perry – Squash
Perry will be competing in her fifth consecutive Commonwealth Games tournament, having made her Games debut 16 years ago in Kuala Lumpur way back in 1998.
The 37 year-old is now ranked eighth in the world but has even been as high as third in 2011. Her previous best in the Games came in her last two efforts, when she reached the quarter-final stage in both 2006 and 2010.
Eimear Mullan – Triathlon
Prior to taking up triathlon Eimear represented both Northern Ireland and the UK in Tetrathlon, a multisport similar to Modern Pentathlon. At university she studied Sports Psychology and after took some time out to travel the world. In 2007 Eimear qualified as a PE teacher and around this time took up cycling which eventually led to triathlon. As an amateur she has won national titles in sprint and Olympic distance triathlon and duathlon.
In 2011 Eimear took the decision to race as a professional whilst still working as a teacher. Her pro career got off to an excellent start after winning her first professional race. In 2012 Eimear had a breakthrough season when she won Ironman UK and Ironman UK 70.3 and in doing so made history by becoming Ireland’s first ever Ironman champion.