The European Universities Combat Games (EUSA) was held in Zagreb, Croatia from 31st July until 4th August 2019. This was the first event of it’s kind where participants  from european universities competed in 4 different combat sports for the 1st official EUSA Combat Games title.
In total there were 1300 participants, from 404 universities and 36 countries competing in Judo, Karate, Kickboxing and Taekwondo.
Ireland was well represented with 7 athletes competing in kickboxing and 1 karateka fighter.
Ireland’s 7 kickboxing athletes were chosen through each of the universities Student Sports Union.
Technological University Dublin had Jordan White, Sophie Larkin, Sean Ryan and Danielle Baker competing.
Marino Institute of Education supported Jake Riddel. Maynooth University was represented by Lea Farrell and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology appointed Brendan Kenny for the challenge.
All competitors are members of Kickboxing Ireland and as such, affiliated to WAKO. The World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) oversaw and officiated the kickboxing part of the championships.
The Irish team were no strangers to the european and world circuit as all seven athletes are currently or have been part of the official kickboxing Ireland national team.
The official delegation of Team Ireland was headed by Damian Gormley who was also the national coach alongside Robbie Haugh through out the 5 day championship. John Ryan was Ireland’s selected referee for the tournament and KBI & WAKO IF President Roy Baker was always on hand to support Team Ireland while on official duty as head of WAKO to oversee the university games.
After a mix start of results, Team Ireland finished the Eusa Games in 5th place with 2 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze medal. Russia finished just ahead of the Irish team while Hungary, Ukraine and Slovakia  finished in the top three accordingly.
Ireland’s gold medallist were T.U.D.’s Jordan White and Sean Ryan. Jordan’s road to glory started with beating Hungary 18-8 in the -74kg PF division. His semi final win was against Ukraine with a 14-5 win, setting up a final with another Ukrainian competitor and convincingly winning the bout by maximum score (10-0). Sean’s gold medal journey took off in the PF -63kg by beating a tough competitor from Hungary by a 4 point margin. His semi final bout with Ukraine was straight forward with a 12-2 win.  Sean’s final with another Ukrainian fighter was as good as over with a 9 point deficit going in to his final round, but the determined TUD competitor wasn’t settling for a runner up medal and, after changing his fighting tactics, he turned the bout round to win 21-19.
Sophie Larkin finished in second place after reaching the finals of the -65kg PF category but was stopped short by Andrea Busa from Hungary, who is one of the world’s top female competitors.
Jake Riddel was Ireland’s bronze medallist in one of the championship’s largest divisions. After beating Portugal and Slovakia in the preliminaries and quarter finals he was unlucky not to progress to the finals after his Ukrainian opponent took charge in the semi final bout.
A special thanks to the four universities involved. Without their support and approval these athletes would not have been able to travel and compete in the coveted EUSA games.
Ireland’s 5th place finish is an outstanding achievement showing that high calibre fighters can be produced from such a small nation. In recent years, Ireland has finished in the top 5 finishes in most major european and world championships. This trend will now improve even more thanks to the fact that kickboxing is now an Olympic recognised sport.