The official Team Ireland squad of circa 220 athletes, coaches, parents and officials travelled to the WAKO Kickboxing European Championships for Children, Cadets & Juniors in Gyor, Hungary from the 24th – 31st August 2019.

The event itself was in the beautiful Audi Arena in the city of Gyor, which hosted 39 countries from around Europe and with just under 1600 athletes competing in the kickboxing disciplines of point fighting, light continuous, kick light continuous, musical forms/weapons, k1, full contact and low kick.

This European championships, was one of the biggest to date, organised and ran by the World Association of Kickboxing Organisations (WAKO) along with the host national federation, WAKO Hungary.

The young fighting Irish are now regarded as one of the most competitive teams in the world, finishing in an outstanding 5th place with Russia in 1st place, the host country runner up, followed by Italy and Bulgaria. It has to be noted that all the top 4 finishers, have a fully funded team for their athletes.

Even though the Irish lack in funding, they still possess pure fighting spirit! This has been shown by their amazing results:

The creative/weapons/musical forms team led by national coach Jessica Grant were our main gold miners. The team topped the medals table for their discipline, finishing the week with 9 golds, 9 silver and 6 bronze medals:
Amy Ledwidge 2 x gold, Heidi Mcloughlin 2 x gold, 1 x silver, 1 x bronze, Billy McLawrence 2 x gold, Max Miller 1 x gold, 1 x silver, 2 x bronze, Leah Kiernan 1 x gold, 2 x silver, Maya Quinn 1 x gold, 1 x bronze, Jake Carroll 2 x silver, 2 x bronze, Max Lennon 2 x silver & Sarah Cassidy 1 x silver.

Our point fighting team with head coach Dave Heffernan took home 3 gold, 4 silver and 11 bronze medals.
One of the stars of the point fighting squad was Jodie Browne competing in the JF -65kg. Jodie dominated each bout with ease beating all her opponents by maximum score, and retaining the coveted European title, to add to the World title she won at last year’s Championships.
Kyle Moore took gold in the YCM -42kg and Lucy Conlon-Oates made it a third gold for the point fighting team in the YCF -47kg division.
Team Ireland’s vice European champions are Sam O’Toole in the CH M -30kg, Aranas Orlovas in CH M -33kg, Zoe Hicks in the CH M -30kg and Aoife Bailey in the JF -50kg division.
In third place were Eadoin McCrave (JF -65kg), Aidan Kerr (JM -89kg), Nora Walsh (OCF -37kg), Sarah Cassidy (OCF -32kg), Sarah O’Sullivan (YCF -37kg), Caitlin Knight (YCF -28kg), Arnas Rancas (YCM -47kg), Zach Lamari (YCM -42kg), PJ Scanlon (YCM -37kg), Emmet Bailey (CH M +36kg) and Edward Comeford (CH M-27kg).

Freshly appointed national coach for Light Continuous / Kick Light Des Leonard did an outstanding job in his first outing as head coach bringing home 3 golds, 5 silver and 12 bronze medals for Team Ireland.
The European titles went to Cialam Dowdall in the LC OCM -63kg and Robyn McDonnell who was crowned double European champion and outclassed every bout in the LC JF -70kg and KL JF -70kg categories. Robyn was also shortlisted as one of the top tatami competitors of the championships.
Silver medals went to Grainne Begley (KL JF -55kg), Luc Cronin (KL JM -69kg), Dayna Walsh (LC JF -55kg), Gearoid Debarbouille (KL JM -57kg) and Nora Walsh (LC OCF -37kg).
Well earned third place finishes went to Padraig Hagan (LC OCM -57kg), Zara Jones (LC OCF -50kg), Jennifer Fox (LC OCF -65kg), Luke McCann (LC JM -57kg), Ian O’Flynn (LC JM -74kg), Cornell Petluic (LC JM -84kg), Aidan Kerr (LC JM -89kg), Nazreen Flannery (LC JF -70kg), Niamh Ryan (LC JF +70kg), Jordan Doran (LC JF +70kg), Nate Kelly (KL OCM -47kg) and Ian O’Flynn (KL JM -74kg).

Joe Hagan’s full contact team was also on hand helping Team Ireland finish in the top 5 in Europe with Zak Riddle (OJM -51kg) and Taylor Heffernan (YJM -71kg) reaching their finals but stopped short to take the wins and Adam Ludlow with a deserved third place finish in the YJM -54kg category.

Team Ireland also added to their medal haul in the point fighting team event categories. The Children and Younger Cadet teams battled their way through their respective bouts to win well-earned silver and bronze medals respectively. The Junior team were aiming to end the week on a real high for Team Ireland. They took out some top ranked teams on their way to the final where they met tournament favourites, Italy. Unfortunately, Team Ireland were pipped at the post by one single point, and had to settle for silver in this instance, in what was an exciting and nail biting final, that had both sets of supporters and neutrals alike, glued to the tatami.

To finish in the top 5 nations in Europe, with zero funding, just shows the grit, determination and sacrifices the young fighting Irish can achieve. We have to sit back and think, if funding was available, how much further Team Ireland would go.

A big hand has to be given to all the club coaches who train these young athletes day in, day out in preparation to compete at the highest level of our sport. A special mention must go to all the parents/guardians who were crowned the ‘Best Supporters’ of the championships, and who dedicate their time in encouraging and supporting their children.