MORE THAN four weeks after leaving his St Johnston home to pursue his Commonwealth Youth Games dream, Brett McGinty landed back in Ireland last night with a silver medal draped proudly around his neck.
The Oakleaf ABC clubman, who turned 17 years-old on Sunday, shredded any doubts over his selection for the N. Ireland team by leading his five man squad to unprecedented success at the 2015 Games in Samoa.
McGinty, who had the honour of captaining his team in the Games on the Pacific Island, lost out in a close 69kg final in Tuana’imato to Englishman, Mohammed Harris Akbar.
The six-times Irish champion’s selection for the Games was shrouded in controversy despite being ratified by the Ulster Council.
The Holy Trinity club in Belfast called for a box-off for the place as they felt their man should have been nominated instead.
However, McGinty’s display in Samoa and the Ulster Council’s decision to name him captain proved any doubters wrong.
The toughness of the first two fights took its toll He was just getting over his virus too so it was tremendous performance.Eugene O’Kane
McGinty had been given the most difficult path to the final after being drawn against tournament favourite, Ryan Scaife of New Zealand in the quarter-finals.
After a tough three rounds McGinty progressed to the last four with a superb 3-0 win where he met Australian, Jack Gipp.
Another 3-0 win for the Oakleaf man ensured his place in the final against Bradford’s Akbar.
McGinty, who was struggling with a stomach bug just two days before his tournament bow, lost out in a tightly contested bout, however, it was the most successful return from a N. Ireland Commonwealth Youth Games team.
Bantamweight James McGivern, light-fly Stephen McKenna and light-welterweight Aidan Walsh claimed Team NI’s first ever boxing golds at the Games while Tiernan Bradley (lightweight) and McGinty (light-middle) won silvers.
McGinty’s club coach, Eugene O’Kane was delighted with the teenager’s performance and felt the Co. Donegal man’s selection was vindicated.
“It shows you the character of the young lad,” said O’Kane. “The pressure he was under because all the boys had won before him and he was last to box every day.
“And the draw was unbelievable because he got the favourite in the quarter-final. But he justified his selection.
“He actually had a stomach bug two days before his first contest and had to be passed fit by the doctor. He had a tough contest against the New Zealand guy (Scaife) on the Tuesday and won 3-0. By all accounts that was the fight of the tournament.
“Then on the Wednesday he fought the Australian and beat him 3-0 as well. He boxed Akbar in the final. He started slow and then came on strong, winning the third round easily. It was very close.
“The toughness of the first two fights took its toll,” continued O’Kane.
The hard work during the intense training programme which included camps in Russia, the SINI in Jordanstown, the High Performance centre in Dublin and the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra ultimately reaped its rewards.
“He’s been away from home for over a month,” added O’Kane. “They were well prepared by the Ulster Council but it all augurs well for the future.”
McGinty’s success mirrors that of stablemate, Sean McGlinchey who clinched bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
McGlinchey was also named in the N. Ireland team amid controversy but justified his selection with a superb performance in Scotland.
“It’s something similar to Sean’s story,” agreed O’Kane. “Sean was under pressure ahead of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. He had to prove himself as some quarters didn’t want him to go.
“The Ulster Council made a decision and they were totally vindicated and it’s the same with Brett who faced opposition to his selection.
“It’s great for the club,” said O’Kane. “It was a marvellous performance from a great team and these boys will be there or there abouts when it comes to the next Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Brisbane in 2018 and then the following Olympic Games. It puts Brett on the map. He’s a great role model for the kids at the club.”