Rio 2016 Olympics: Post-mortems begin as Northern Ireland misses out on medals

Michael Conlan shows his disgust after his controversial Olympic quarter-final defeat by Russia's Vladimir Nikitin
Michael Conlan lost out on an Olympic medal after a hugely controversial defeat by Russia's Vladimir Nikitin

As the Olympics concluded with a spectacular carnival-inspired closing ceremony, Ireland's post-mortems were already well under way.

From an Irish perspective, the imagine of Olympic Council of Ireland President Pat Hickey being arrested while wearing his bath robe will overshadow all the country's sporting performances in Rio.

Sailor Annalise Murphy was particularly unfortunate to see her splendid silver medal achievement quickly relegated down the Irish media's agenda as it grappled a day later with the extraordinary and fast-moving events at the Olympic Family Hotel.

Looking more specifically at the Northern Ireland angle, with 20 competitors representing Team Ireland and eight in action for Team GB, a return of no medals has to be regarded as a disappointment after the four-medal haul in London.

But this bald statistic requires some more examination.

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Paddy Barnes was beaten by Samuel Carmona

Barnes and Conlan appeared NI medal bankers

London 2012 bronze medallists Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan were really the only two Northern Irish hopefuls who could have been termed as medal bankers heading into Rio.

Barnes' shock exit in the light-flyweight division was a further devastating blow to an Irish boxing team already reeling after news of middleweight Michael O'Reilly's positive drugs test.

Years of battling to make the 49 kilogram light-flyweight limit finally appeared to catch up with the hugely popular Barnes as he was visibly blowing early on against unheralded Spaniard Samuel Carmona.

After the contest, Barnes claimed that he had weighed as much as 58 kilos only six weeks before the contest and the light-flyweight's battle with the scales will surely warrant a mention in the Irish Athletic Boxing Association's post-Rio review.

But while Barnes was clearly not himself in his one Rio contest, his great friend Michael Conlan was the victim of a controversial judging decision in his bantamweight quarter-final against Russian Vladimir Nikitin.

Victory would have guaranteed Conlan at least a bronze medal but with a tough semi-final task against American talent Shakur Stevenson in advance of a possible final meeting with eventual winner Cuban Robeisy Ramirez.

Both fights would have represented no easy task.

However, most observers felt world champion Conlan was "robbed" of a medal which would have put a markedly different slant on the province's Rio efforts given that only 17 medals have been won in Northern Ireland's Olympic history since John McNally's opening boxing silver in 1952.

In terms of Northern Ireland's other boxers, Stephen Donnelly performed creditably as he earned two wins before losing out to Moroccan world champion Mohammed Rabii in a close quarter-final but flyweight Brendan Irvine endured a chastening experience as he was outclassed by Uzbekistan's Shakhobidin Zoirov in his opener.

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Campbell disappointed after Games exit

Coleraine rowers unable to repeat London heroics

After winning a silver and bronze in London, there was hope of more Northern Ireland rowing success in Rio from the Coleraine trio of Alan Campbell and the Chambers brothers Richard and Peter.

However after a build-up affected by health issues and poor form, 2012 bronze medallist Campbell, 33, was always likely to face a tough task in the single sculls and his failure to make the final was, in truth, not a major surprise.

Unlike 2012, the Chambers brothers did not race together in Rio as both Peter and Richard exited in the lightweight four and lightweight double sculls semi-finals stage.

Peter did not appear unduly surprised by the British duo's failure to progress but Richard was stunned as he and Will Fletcher were edged out of a final spot by O'Donovan brothers who went on to secure a memorable silver medal for Ireland.

Archer Huston beaten by eventual gold medallist

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Belfast's Patrick Huston represented Great Britain in the men's individual archery competition in Rio

Before the opening ceremony had even begun, Belfast archer Patrick Huston was the first member of Team GB in action at the Games and he went on to perform impressively as he beat Dutch world number seven Rick Van Der Ven in the last 64 before losing a tight game to eventual gold medallist Ku Bon-chan of South Korea.

GB hockey quartet Iain Lewers, Mark Gleghorne, Ian Sloan and David Ames are likely to be among the most disappointed Northern Ireland competitors returning from Rio after the team failed to reach the quarter-finals after a campaign which included defeats by Belgium and Australia.

Britain women's gold medal will only have exacerbated the sense of disappointment in the male ranks.

In contrast, an Ireland men's squad which included Gleghorne's brother Paul and six other Ulstermen will depart Rio with their reputation enhanced as they narrowly missed out on a last-eight spot after a closing 3-2 group defeat by eventual champions Argentina.

Mageean remains big hope of Irish athletics

In athletics, Ciara Mageean looked hugely impressive as she finished second in her 1500m heat before fading quite dramatically in her semi-final two days later.

However at 24, Mageean remains one of the big hopes of Irish athletics and barring injury, she should be at the peak of her powers in four years time and in a position to challenge for a medal.

Also in track and field, Kerry O'Flaherty fulfilled a lifetime's ambition as she competed in the 3,000m steeplechase heats while Paul Pollock vindicated his selection for the men's marathon as he clocked 2:16.34 to finish 32nd with Belfast man Kevin Seaward inhibited by flu symptoms as he finished 64th in 2:20.06.

Sailors Matt McGovern and Ryan Seaton moved up four places from their 14th position in London after a 49er campaign which included two race victories while Derry triathlete Aileen Reid improved significantly from her 43rd in 2012 as she finished 21st.

Hillsborough-based Clare Abbott finished 37th in the Three-Day Eventing after a solid Olympic debut while Stephanie Meadow ended in a share of 31st in the women's event as golf made its return to the Games after an 112-year absence.

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