BOXING fans will have an opportunity to bid farewell and good luck to four Co Antrim boxers one week before they depart for the Rio Olympics Games.
The Devenish Complex in Finaghy will host ‘The Road To Rio’ on Friday, July 15 with Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Steven Donnelly and Brendan Irvine in attendance.
The night will featured a question and answer session with the quartet and a chance to meet former Olympians, as event organizer Douglas Adams explained.
“I am involved in the world of boxing and I just thought it is unusual to have three guys from a radius of about four miles representing their county at the Olympics in boxing, or any sport,” said Adams.
“We would like to raise funds for them but also to thank them for their achievements and recognise that they are representing their county and representing Belfast at the Olympics.
“Stephen Donnelly from Ballymena has also gained his place at the Olympics so the event has now become a celebration of the Co Antrim boxers.”
While Barnes will be competing at his third Olympic Games and Conlan at his second, both Donnelly and Irvine are making their Olympic debuts.
Additionally, Barnes will have the honour of carrying the Irish tricolour at the opening ceremony in Rio.
While the aforementioned duo will be aiming for Gold in Rio, Adams feels it is important to recognize the achievement of the boxers qualifying for the Olympics.
“Not only is it a great achievement to become an Olympian, but you now have four boxers from one county,” said Adams.
“That speaks volumes for the standard of boxing in this part of the world.
“A lot of people have dedicated themselves to amateur boxing for a long time and it is paying dividends.
“These boxers are great role models for young kids.”
With high-profile golf stars Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry pulling out of the Olympics due to concerns over the Zika virus, the boxing team, which also includes London Gold medal winner Katie Taylor, will carry Ireland’s best chance of securing Gold in Rio.
However, the Irish Olympians won’t enjoy quite the same level of support as four years ago due to the travelling involved in getting to Brazil.
To that end, Adams is hoping that boxing fans will turn up in great numbers to show their support for our local Olympic hopefuls.
“The Olympics in London was quite easy for people to go over and support the boys,” added Adams.
“It is quite a distance to Rio and there are issues with money and transport and everything.
“This is a chance, on July 15, they head off the following, for fans to show their appreciation.
“The night will include the Olympic boxers and their trainers. There will be a question and answer session with them and also a chance to meet the ex-Olympians.
“There will also be footage of the past Olympics from 1956 on a big screen.”
Tickets are priced at £50, which includes dinner and a signed programme.
Corporate tables (10 per table) are also available for £600 and also includes one set of signed gloves for everyone at the table.
Tickets are currently sale from Gymco (02895600669), Manny’s Kennedy Centre (0289075224) and Manny’s Antrim Road (02890618308).