Irish Duo Secure Passage To Rio Olympics
PA

Belfast's Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan secured qualification to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro by winning their World Series of Boxing fights in Venezuela on Saturday night.

The pair who were representing Italia Thunder both won bronze medals in London 2012 and followed that up by winning gold in last summer's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

This will be the third Olympics for Barnes who won bronze in both Beijing and London. He eventually fell short to China's Zou Shiming in the semi-finals but he will be one of the favourites for gold in Rio with Shiming now in the professional ranks. Barnes knew a win in Venezuela would secure passage to Rio and he managed to beat Finol Rivas by split decision to become the first Irishman assured of a place in Rio.

Conlan will be going to his second Olympics in Rio after winning bronze as a twenty year old in London three years ago. Conlan needed to win his fight against Jose Diaz-Azocar and hope other results went his way to ensure qualification at the first attempt. Conlan done his bit with a unanimous decision win over his opponent and fortunately for the Irishman Azerbaijan’s Magomed Gurbanov lost his fight to ensure Conlan joins Barnes on the Irish plane next summer.

Team Ireland will hope to see more of their boxer's qualify before next years games to help build on the success of the 2012 Olympics. Four of the six competitors Ireland sent to the games came back with medals (Katie Taylor (gold) and John Joe Nevin (silver) the other two) and there will be great confidence that the Irish squad that go to Rio next year will continue the success in what is Ireland's most successful Olympic sport.

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