The organising committee where delighted with the attendance from International and National athletes at what has become the Largest Martial Arts Tournament in the world today. It is easy to forget the beginnings of this event fifteen years ago in Leixlip Amenities Centre, when fighters from England and Italy attended the first Irish Open international and a total of 340 fighters competed at the event, of which 85 where international. Ireland should be very proud at the continued growth of this world class event that has no become one of the major sporting events on the Irish sporting calendar.
Due to the continued growth and logistics of the event, the organisers wisely decided this year to run twelve fighting areas each day. This definitely paid dividends with the event finishing for the first time ever on time and within schedule.
The Irish Open is now without question the largest WAKO tournament in the world today. It has continued to grow and prosper particularly over the last number of years to become Europe’s Premier event.
Unless you have attend the spectacle, you really can not understand the energy and excitement this event brings to this sport from a spectators perspective and fighters perspective, it is a truly unique event in the martial arts sporting calendar.
On Saturday morning all international entries went through the weight and height control at registration, this went without a hitch with all 12 registration boots working continuously from 8.30am until close of registration at 11am.
At 12 noon the light contact divisions started simultaneously on all twelve areas, Irelands Julie Mc Hale was against Norway’s, Ina Grindheim in the final, with Julie dispatching her opponent with superior power and technique, joint third went to, Hanna Stephenson, Ireland and Ann Marie Birmingham, England. Julie the current WAKO European light contact champion deservedly taking the 2007 title which in fact is her fifth Irish Open individual light contact win in a row, a feat unmatched in the world today.
The largest light contact division at the event with 55 fighters from 16 countries entered was the -85kg Light Contact division. Nizioket Muniosz from Poland beat a game and strong Steve Williams, from England in a electrifying final, with Scotland’s, Craig Foster a multiple winner at previous Opens and the infamous Stewart Edgeworth from Ireland taking a very credible third place in this extremely tough division.
In the men’s light contact intermediate division, Croatia’s, Boris Martinovio, won his countries first gold at the Irish Open with a very strong, Martin Rasmussen from Denmark, taking silver, Keith Shelly, Ireland and Lindell Taylor, England, took joint third.
Grand Champion Female
The grand champion female division saw 65 of the worlds top female fighters battle it our to see just who is the best of the best. The final was between, Lorraine Hughes from UK and Melissa Mayer from USA, with Ina Grineim from Norway a credible third.. this was an excellent final with both ladies deservedly getting to the final, it was close over each round, but Mayer nudged ahead to take overall victory and the €750 Euro cash prize to boot.
Grand Champion Male
OK on to the BIG ONE. This is without question the hardest fighting division in the world and most prestigious open title in existence ever. This year 223 of the worlds best fighters from 27 different countries entered one division to see who is the ultimate champion. This event was run on four areas over three hours, with the finalists of each area going forward to the semi finals in the night time show.
Semi Final one saw Raymond Daniels, USA fight Stella Neri from Italy over two by two minute rounds, the Italian fighter never got his rhythm and Daniels clearly emerged the victor. Semi final two was between Irelands Robbie Mc Menamey and Germanys Harold Smith. This was a rematch of the semi finals in the WAKO European championships where Smith emerged victorious by the narrowest of margins. Again like the previous bout this was an amazing fight off, both fighters not giving an inch, but this time mc Menamey getting the edge and emerging victorious.
The night time final was electric, with only two points between the fighters after the first round. It was absolutely down to the wire wit equal points with 5 seconds to go. Daniels however stretched out and caught Mc Menamey just before the bell to take the converted title. When interviewed, Raymond was very pleased with himself. “ I am delighted to take this title once again, it was very disappointing for me last year when I was unable to make it over, as I had been at the previous three events and it is the number one tournament on my calendar. This is the fourth time I have won the grand champion title. This is one of my greatest achievements, the Irish Open really brings the best out in me.
Forty two teams made up of four men and one woman entered the 2007 team challenge for the largest Cash prize in the world. Four areas ran for two hours to come down to a final four teams. All areas had epic battles on them, one of note was between Team Top Ten and team Best fighter, italy. This really was an amazing match off, with both teams having several world champions on their side. On this day it was team Best fighter who emerged victorious to go to the semi finals against team SAP Europe. De march Italy agains Robbie Hughes, UK, really was a battle of battles.
Another epic battle was between team long established team SWAT from the UK and the newly formed Team CIMAC UK, This went to five extra matched to decide the winner, with SWAT edging in a win by the very narrowest of margins, this new Team Cimac are young and have a VERY promising future ahead of them.
The Semi Final between Team Best Fighter Italy and Team SAP Europe was a clash that many people had been waiting for, however on the day team SAP pulled three straight wins against their Italian opponents to take a decisive win and for the third year in a row a place in the final.
The other semi final was between the USA Allstars the current Irish Open team champions and Team NSKA, under the guidance of the renowned Daz Ellis. Again like the previous semi final it was once sided with Team Allstars USA forging ahead for a very decisive victory. So once again for the third year in a row it was team Allstars USA and Team SAP Europe. Last year it took three extra time matches to decide the eventual winning team and this year people where really excited with the rematch.
First match was Roberto Belotti from Italy against, Robbie Lavoy from Canada, Belotti is again coming back to form after a very serious injury to his ankle, on this occasion Lavoy was the winner. Second up was Nicos Memos from Greece against Jack Felton, memos stepped up two gears and beat his game US opponent by two points, brining the match back to a draw. Third Up was Robbie Mc Menamey from Ireland against, Jason Bournley Tankson, again Mc Menamey showed superior skill and stepped up and took the bout, brining the European team up one., Fourth Up was Morten Spissy against Raymond Daniels, Daniels’ made this one long distance not suiting the shorter Norwegian man, however nether fighter gained a significant advantage, but the on form Daniels took the win, brining it to a draw, so it was all equal going down to the final match. So €3,500 Euros would be decided by one two minute round, it was all down to Melissa Mayer USA and Elaine Small from Ireland. This really was an excellent and exciting fight, Mayer using her long legs and superior kicking ability against Smalls effective movement and hands, At the end of the bout it was a draw brining both teams to a tie for the third year in a row, however this year the rules had changed in the final in the event of a draw, the scores would be counted back and the team with the greater number of points would be the winners, it was so close again for Team SAP, but USA Allstars had a greater score and where therefore awarded the win, a bitter disappointment for team SAP.
The official opening.
Minister Tom Kit was the guest of honour this year at the opening. Within his speech he noted the importance of Martial Arts in developing a positive and healthy community, he also noted the incredible spectacle which the Irish Open has become with over 2000 competitor from 27 countries, he thanked the organising committee and all the volunteers and commended IMAC on its continued work for Martial Arts in Ireland. Suzanne.O’Reilly from The Chosen Charity for this years event The Irish Society for The prevention of Cruelty to Children, thanked everybody for attending and supporting the charity, she said they where delighted to be once again associated with the Irish Open international and commented on how important the values of children can be enshrined within the Martial Arts. Roy Baker, the tournament coordinator thanked all attending and said it was wonderful to see so many faces from around the world working together. Roy asked everybody to stand for one minute silence in respect to the Cashman family who sadly lost their mother/wife last October when they where attending the WAKO European Championships in Portugal. The sudden death had greatly affected all the English team and many of the Irish Team who are closely associated with the Cashman family.
Roy presented, well know kickboxing promoter and black belt Nevil Wray from England with his sixth degree black belt in Kickboxing on behalf og WAKO GB. In recognition for his tireless work and contribution to the development of kickboxing in England and world wide.
Forms grand Champion
The three finalists selected from the preliminary eliminations held on Saturday night at the night time show for the Forms final held at the opening ceremony in from of 2500 fighters and 1000 spectators. Chloe Bruce, England Jason Bournley Tankson, USA and Chris Walker, USA were all clear finalists. First Up was USA Chris Walker, who gave an amazing display of strength and technique and some funny hip movements that wowed the crowd, you will have to go on to the irish Open web site to see what I mean. Second Up the talented Jason Bournley Tabkson who agai showed how he is one of the most talented martial Artists on the circuit today, withi his hig degree of proficiency in forms, kicks and fighting. Finally it was the amazing Chloe Bruce, who was back on form, showing incredible ability nad strength in giving a flawless performance with grace nad poise and deservedly being crowned the grand champion of the 2007 irish Open.
The main organisers of this event are the proverbial cog in the very big wheel. They work for months before the event correlating information and ensuring everything runs as smoothly as possible. Without them their would be no open.
Junior Semi Contact.
One of the best Junior Girls divisions was the Girls +5ft 2 inches Black Belt Division, where England’s Sage Walker took on Lavina Cormick from Ireland. What a final both girls having amazing strength for their age and unbelievable kicking ability, round one was close, but in round two Cormick for Bushido Martial Arts, Leixlip, pulled away and won the match by a three point margin, taking a deserved gold medal. Marco Natalie from Italy showed amazing ability taking the first place in the boys black belt +5ft 2 inches beating his fellow countryman Luca De Christafro in an electrifying final.
Black Belts Women
In the -55kg BB Section Yaz Anderson, England beat Adriana Tricoci from Italy in a very close match. An on form Bev Sturzaker from England a previous grand champion winner took on the very strong and talented, Melanie Moder from Germany in the
The &rdash 65kg BB division was the toughest individual female division of the tournament . This was a very technical match with both fighters having vast experience and amazing power, on the day Bev beat her German opponent taking home her third Irish Open title.
+65kg saw Jem Cambell, England take gold agains fellow English womanJennifer Otto in a hard hitting final with Ina GriendheimNorwayand Rose Marie James, England. England taking bronze.
Black Belts Men
The size and standard of the black belt divisions continue to climb, a good example would be that the -63kg started at 11.30am followed by the -69kg division on one area. This area finished at 7pm without a single break.
The second largest division at the Irish open this year was the men’s -63kg division with 72 fighters for sixteen countries entered. The standard was absolutely inspiring. This is what Semi Contact is all about, the very best fighters in the world coming together under one roof and seeing just who is the best of the best. The final between
Andrea Lucchesse, Italy and Robbie Lavoy, USA which was last years winner, was a spectacle to behold. Lucchesse was absolutely on fire this day, clearly forging ahead of his USA opponent and taking a very deserved for the first time may I add Irish Open first.
What a division. 92 fighters fought in the -69kg Black belt fighters, you heard it right 92 world class athletes in one category and what a category. The four semi finalists, Jack Felton, USA, Danny Ellis, England, Domenic Spechio, England and Kostas Tabolreas, Greece are all world class athletes who fought valiantly over four hours to get to the last four. The two finalists where Jack Felton, USA and Danny Ellis, England. Both where bruised and battered going in to the final and both gave great account of themselves, but once again Felton from the USA emerged victorious, taking the -69 title for the third year in a row.
The -74kg Final was between, Morten Spiss from Norway and and Mimo De Marco was something to be watched, in the first round both fighters absolutely gave it their all, neter gaining a significant advantage, in the second round it weas close up to the last 20 seconds where the on form spiss edged ahead taking his first irish Open Gold after eight years of trying, this can be added to his recent win at the WAKO Europen championships. Credible joint thirds where Giorgio Dalsasso, Italy and Vincenzo Laurora, Italy.
-79kg a very competitive division saw Germanys Harald Schmidtz take gold against Vincenzo Laurora, Italy, who also achieved bronze in the -74kg division. Third place went to David Firth, Scotland and Jason Bournley Tankson USA.
+ 84kg Saw the very talented but unknown on the European Circuit Michael Page, England beat Roberto Monturo, Italy in a very entertaining final. With Dave Heffernan, Irelandand Luigi Petito, Italy taking third.
One thing the Martial Arts tournament scene greatly lacks is coverage on national TV and Satellite. Each year the Irish Open has continued to attract TV crews for around the world. This year we where delighted to be broadcast on Setanta Sports, which is broadcast across Europe. The event was also covered by RTE (OB Sport). The continued involvement of TV media in this sport is vital to the continued growth of the sport and development of sponsorship.
Something that has been long overdue is a professionally produced DVD outlining the highs and lows of the Irish Open, this DVD is being produced and will be available to buy by mid May. All proceeds from this DVD will be donated to the ISPCC.
An event like the Irish open can only continue to evolve and improve with the dedication and support of a vast volunteer group who give of their time, freely in support of the sport and a very worthy charity, the ISPCC. 155 volunteers worked tirelessly for three days supporting the fighters, organisers and harity a big thank you must go out to all of them.
One has to think about the huge logistics of running twelve areas for two days without interruption. It is a huge feat and one that could not be accomplished without the continued support of referees from Ireland and around the world. 75 referees worked tirelessly for two days ensuring the rules and safety of the fighter was the main priority of the day. Each ring had five referees assigned to it with one chief referee. Roy baker, Thank all the referees that helped out and received the unique and coveted Irish Open referees shirt.
Well each year the committee say to themselves how do we top this. Can it be topped. The addition of two fighting areas making a total of twelve without question assisted the smoother running and timely running of the event. The improved catering facilities also helped making sure spectator, fighter, volunteer and official had a good selection to choose from for refreshment. Pre booked transportation to and from the hotels definitely helped. But like always the committee are looking at further improving the event for 2008, wherever possible. Some of the ideas are, Team event on Friday Evening. Black Belt Divisions up to Quarter Finals on Saturday. This would all significantly assist the smooth and timely running of the largest martial Arts tournament in the world today. In the end the continued success of the Irish open is due to people from all over the world working together for a chosen charity and testing their skills against fellow Martial Artists on a non political playing field, something quite unique in today’s world. Long may it continue.
2008 Date Confirmed
The dates for the 2008 Irish Open have been fully confirmed. The Irish Open will be on 1/2nd March 2008, go to www.irishopenonline.com for pictures, results, story and streamed video, get a glimpse of the unique energy and excitement only the Irish Open International can provide to fighter, spectator, referee and officials worldwide.