EAMONN O’Kane will watch this month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow with keen interest as two Derry men attempt to repeat his heroics from Delhi four years ago.
But the Banagher middleweight, who will be at ringside for the finals this year, admits he will look on with a heavy heart, knowing he gave up the chance to defend his gold medal in favour of pursuing a professional career in the sport.
In fact the reigning WBC International Silver middleweight title holder revealed he actually considered delaying turning pro. as he dreamt about defending his Commonwealth Games gold medal in Glasgow this summer.
O’Kane’s mother hails from the Scottish city and he would loved to have had the chance to be part of a ‘home Games’ which would have been his third appearance at the Commonwealths!
“That’s where my mother is from and that’s why I was considering not turning professional.
“I would love to have gone to Glasgow and defended my Commonwealth Games title and it nearly stopped me from going professional. However, it wasn’t to be.”
And he certainly hasn’t looked back as he now boasts an impressive 12-1-0 record with an Irish Prizefighter title, an Irish middleweight belt and both the IBF Inter-Continental and WBC International Silver crowns in his possession.
And with a place on the undercard of Carl Frampton’s forthcoming IBF World Super Bantamweight title fight against Kiko Martinez at the 16,000 capacity arena in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast on September 6th secured, he’s got plenty to occupy his thoughts at present.
But he’s looking forward to watching Derry’s Connor Coyle and Sean McGlinchey attempt to etch their names in the history books at the Commonwealth Games which begin on July 23rd next.
O’Kane knows exactly what it takes to bring back gold having had his hand raised in victory at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium in New Delhi, and he’s challenged Galliagh man Coyle to bring the middleweight title back to Derry ‘where it belongs’.
“It gives me a closer interest in the Games to see how they’re getting on,” he added. “I know them both well. I’ve boxed with Connor and with Sean. They’re good guys.
“Although I boxed out of Immaculata which is an Antrim club, I’m a Derry man. As far as I see it, and I’ve said to Connor - the last man to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal at middleweight was a Derry man and I want it to come back here,” he laughed. “So there’s been a bit of banter between us.
“I really hope both guys can do it,” he continued. “I know from chatting to John Conlan (the High Performance Coach for Ulster Boxing and Commonwealth team) that they’re out there pushing the boundaries as far as competing against all the top nations.
“They’re all doing really well which is great. There’s no reason if they have the belief and the get the psychology right, they can go out there and do well at the Commonwealth Games and bring back the bacon.”
N. Ireland have always had a strong amateur boxing pedigree and in the 2010 Games in India, the team, captained by O’Kane, brought back three gold and two silver medals.
It was Northern Ireland’s first Commonwealth Games gold medals in boxing for 16 years and it was O’Kane’s finest hour as an amateur boxer.
Spurred on by a controversial verdict which robbed him of a bronze medal in Melbourne four years earlier, O’Kane stormed his way to the 2010 final, winning gold with a one-sided 16-4 victory over England’s Anthony Ogogo who went on to win an Olympic bronze medal in London two years ago.
O’Kane has special memories of that triumph and what was a memorable Games for Ulster boxing.
And he is in no doubt that this current Commonwealth team has the ability to repeat that achievement in Glasgow.
“Myself and Paddy Gallagher, Paddy Barnes, Tommy McCarthy and Steven Ward - all five of us won medals in Delhi. Three gold and two silver and we set the example.
“And there’s no reason why they can’t beat that,” he added. “The talent is there. Paddy’s still there.
Mick Conlan who should have medalled in the last Games and Steven Donnelly - they have the experience.
There’s quality in that team and I really hope they can go over to Glasgow and do it.
“I’ve got tickets for the semi-finals and finals and I’m going over to watch them so they better be there,” he warned.
Victory in these Games would offer both Coyle and McGlinchey the perfect platform to go on to bigger and better things in the sport and O’Kane hopes his progression can inspire them to success.
“It’s a home nation so it’s a great profile and a great platform to set themselves up in the sport,” he said.
“I’m rooting for them. I really want them to do well, especially Sean and Connor. They’re two good lads.
“Even Paddy Barnes and Mick Conlan, Tommy McCarthy - lads from the last Commonwealths - I hope they all put it together because I’m very much a supporter as well.”