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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 19 October, 2019

Celebrating the ‘Warrior Nation’ after Ireland’s six world championship medals

Jason Quigley and Joe Ward did Irish boxing proud while our kickboxers had a four-medal haul in Russia.

Jason Quigley with his uncle Billy at Dublin Airport.
Jason Quigley with his uncle Billy at Dublin Airport.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

AS JASON QUIGLEY and Joe Ward (and their boxing medals) arrived at Dublin Airport this afternoon, Tom Rooney looks at the recent success of our ‘Warrior Nation’.

The Irish squad returned home from the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg, Russia with two gold medals, a bronze and a silver.

Robbie McMenamy and 20 year-old Shauna Bannon both won gold medals in their respective weight divisions, while Mark McDermott received silver and Sligo teenager Dessie Leonard won a bronze after an agonising one-point extra-time defeat.

What a week it’s been for Irish combat sports. Six medals on the world stage.

On Saturday, Quigley made history in becoming the first Irish boxer to win a World Championship silver medal. Ward, a talented teenager from Westmeath, also medalled, while Paddy Barnes, Tommy McCarthy and Michael Conlan all made it to the quarter-finals.

While the World Boxing Championships has attracted all the media coverage, the SportAccord World Combat Games – regarded as being the Olympics of Martial Arts, were taking place in Russia.

In the kickboxing championships Ireland were the only country with four competitors, the only country with four semi-finalists and the only country with two gold medals in the tatami category.

That’s four medallists – shared between a firefighter, a gym trainer and two students, all of whom train like professionals.

Fighting in the semi-contact discipline, means that it’s a continuous fight on an 8x8 tatami mat. With two referees adjudicating from the floor, the combat is paused each time a point is awarded. To win, you score more than your opponent. With the main characteristics being technique and speed, an equal emphasis is placed on hand and foot combat.

Roy Baker, president of Kickboxing Ireland, spoke of the difficulties the Irish fighters have in competing against opponents who are fully backed and funded in their own countries.

Baker spoke of the huge differences, incentives and support afforded to the elite kickboxers in opposing countries. “Certain countries like Russia, Norway, Ukraine and Italy really look after their athletes,” he said. “If any of their competitors come out of these games with a gold medal they’ll be handed bursaries of up to €70,000 and placed on an Elite Athlete list where they’ll be entitled to a pension at 35.”

Despite these barriers, the Irish are always near the top and Baker added that we were “lucky to have four very strong competitors fighting for the country.”

The Irish squad all fought in the point-fighting category; Shauna Bannon defeated her Italian opponent by 13-10. Robbie McMenamy, fighting at -84kg and who suffered an gut-wrenching WAKO World Championship defeat in 2011, won by 12-6.

Mark McDermott, who Baker had described as being in ‘real hot form’, was beaten by the highly rated Hungarian Laszlo Gombos and was left with silver.,The youngest member of the squad and the only one from outside Dublin, Dessie Leonard, lost to the eventual winner of the -63kg, Adriano Passaro after an epic semi-final where his Italian foe prevailed by a point.

Participation in the World Combat Games is regarded as being a major step towards Olympic recognition. For the World Association Kickboxing Organisation, and the elite fighters of Kickboxing Ireland, who have over 10,000 members, fighting in the Olympic Games is the ultimate goal.

VIDEO: Irishman Robbie McMenamy claims kickboxing world title

12 of our favourite pictures as Ireland’s World Boxing heroes return home

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