May 7, 2009

More Quality Less Quantity

Every year we have seen the numbers at the Irish Open grow, probably if one was to be honest grow to much, in 2008 over 2000 fighters converged on Dublin .SO this year the event committee decided to change a few things to bring a more balanced activity for the competitor and coach alike.A big change was all entries where by the online registration, a seamless and simple process that greatly helped with the coordination of the event.

Next was the weight in on a Friday afternoon for the international fighters. Then the balanced individual fight card, with Light Contact fighting, Male Semi Contact Black Belts, Female Grand Champion and musical forms on Saturday, followed by all colored belts, women black belts and men’s grand champion.

Friday saw all the international fighters arrive at the arena between 2pm and 6pm to go through weight control and height check; it was interesting to see how many athletes had to go for long jogs just to make the weight.

International Referee Seminar

WAKO also ran an international referees seminar hosted by Brian Beck, the four hour session reviewed and reinforced the rules to all present and it one of only three international tournaments where referees are qualified for the WAKO World and European Championships.

Team Event
First event in 2009 was the team event, 26 International teams vied for the most prestigious team title in Europe today.All the worlds top teams were present, Team SAP Europe, Team SP USA, WAKO GB, Team Best Fighter, Team Auxe, Team Winner SAP, WSBB, Team Canada and Team Top Ten Europe.

What a line up, the event started at 7.30pm on four areas with over 1600 people viewing the matches.Surprisingly the two teams who have reached the finals for the last four years where beaten.In the final it was Team Top Ten Europe versus Team Best Fighter, two Top Ten sponsored teams, it was a difficult one for Gianfranco as both where his teams, but in the end the best team won, Team Top Ten Europe took home the gold and the coveted cash prize, deservedly so and made their mark on the European Circuit.With fighters like Menamey, Grillo and Schmidt to name but a few they will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Saturday saw a new buzz to the Irish Open, the black belt semi contact fighters where ready to rock at 11am.It brought a new dimension to the event, the referees where fresh the fighters where fresh and everybody was up for it.Neville Wray, the coach of WAKO GB, said “ You know this is the one my guys train for, the rate it as the best there is, we are really excited about the new format, it brings a new vitality to the event and showcases the very best fighters in the world today, so I know we are going to see something special today, especially tonight when we will have all the Black Belt Semi Contact finals on the night time show, with selected Light Contact Finals ” In the women’s light contact +65kg Finals, Dileta Faiola, Italy, beat Irelands, Clare Louise Sweetman, Ireland,in the final with A BirminghamEngland and Vickey Morgan, England taking a deserved joint third.The LC -84kg division saw Irelands Cormack O Connor take on a game Dean Giles, from England , with the Irish Fighter taking gold’s with Jacobs, Austria and Daniel Pantano, Italy in third.First Semi black belt division was the -63kg division, what a division, with 46 fighters from around the globe,the likes of Robbie Hughes, Andrea Luchese, Richard Veres, Jason Doyle, Robbie Lavoie and many more respected world class athletes. Some incredible matches took place with surprising early exits of some of the favorites, however the final between, Luchese and Veres was something to make the mouth water.

Domenico De Marco was in incredible form, winning a place in the -74kg and -69kg finals, for me, he is one of the best fighters in the world and one of the nicest people you will ever meet a true Martial Artist.He was up against, Morten Spissoy in -74kg and Lazlo Gombi in -69kg. in 69 division Davide Sfulcini, Italy and Jack Felton USA , took third with -74kg Stuart Quinn, Ireland and Tamaras Imre Hungary wining third as well.In the -79kg division Morten Spissoy, Norway and Jasoun BorellyUSA, where both beaten by the finalists, Mc Menamaey and Schmidt and Drew NeilEngland with Kristian JaroskieviczHungary, being beaten, by Page and Daniels in the -84kg.

Night Time Finals

Sometimes our sport and our athletes do not get the recognition they deserve, we have a wonderful sport that deserves recognition, the MAG games in 2010 will be a step in the right direction. The finals show was the main Idea to give our very best athletes that something special, competing on one stage in front of 2000+ people, with television.A just reward for getting to the final of one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world today.Everybody in the crowded stadium where very excited with the forthcoming spectacle.

The -63kg Final between Andrea Luchese and Richard Veres was inspiring, both fighters in top class form, Luchese was like a man possed with a demon, he was absolutely on fire, but did not get it all his own way with Veres fighting back on every point, in the end the Italian took home a deserved gold medal, cash price and unique Irish Open cup, all in all a good day for him.

-69kg Final was saw Italys , Domenico De Marco take on Lazlo Gombi from Hungary , in a tantalizing a tactically amazing final,Round one was so close with both fighters, not giving an inch.However Gombi pushed ahead and took a deserved gold.

-74kg Saw De Marco up again against his consistent rival Morten Spissoy.What a match, De Marco with amazing kicking ability and Spissoy with hands like a god, a truly great final with less than one two points between them at the end, so for the second time Spissoy takes home an Irish Open Gold.

-79 final was a rematch from the last WAKO World Championships, between Harald Schmidt , Germany and Robbie Mc Menamey, Ireland .Harald would be one of the most accomplished kickers in the world today, with Robbie one of the best tactical fighters on this planet.However as happened in the Worlds Haralds long range kicking was just out distancing Robbies with Harald taking home a gold to Germany.

-84 Final was an eagerly awaited match between the living legend Raymond Daniels and England ’s Michael Page, one of Europe ’s finest fighters.Both fighters had dispatched their rivals in the early rounds, to get to this stage.Everybody was up for this one, it was long overdue.At the start it was level pegging with nether fighter gaining a clear advantage, in the break we saw a spectacle never seen before, Daniels in his inimitable style came out and gave us a break dance demonstration with Page responding with all I could say was the Jackson slide, but updated J .The crowd rose to their feat and applauded both fighters, I am sure you can see it on YouTube.Second Round saw Daniels forge ahead taking control and working the mat as he and only he can, beating the talented Page.Another Gold for the USA Penultimate Martial Art Athlete.

The women’s black belt final was between Anna Kondar, Hungary and Sharon Gill, England .Unfortunately thirty seconds in to the match, Sharon had to pull out as she tore her calf muscle a bitter disappointment to both fighters, who had fought through 67 other fighters to get to this stage.

-89kg Final saw USA Joey Greenhaugh against Hungary ’s, Kristian Jaroskievicz.Again Greenhaugh was on fors as the 2008 champion and clearly controlled the final beating his Hungarian opponent.+ 89 KG sawPetr Kotiok, Czech Republin and Martin Keiser, Lichtenstein in the final.Petr dominated from the start taking home deserved gold.

In the end this really was a unique spectacle with each male black belt semi contact division on the stage in the evening and will definitely be how it is in the future, showcasing our very best semi and light contact fighters to there peers.Giving the very best in out sport and opportunity to shine.

The show finished at 10.30, exactly on time, so it was a fantastic second day at the Irish Open 2009, with wins, losses, disappointments, but overall a day to be proud of.


Sunday began exactly at 11am with the children divisions on all twelve areas.

Tara Billingham, England and Ashling Mc Dermott , Ireland , had a fantastic final in the girls +165cm division.With Tara taking gold.It was amazing to see the young boys and girls on the mat, equaling if not surpassing the adults in ability, skill athleticism and passion, our sport has a promising future if we nurture, develop and promote the children.Another fantastic final was Giuseppi Angelino, Italy and De Reece Williams, England in the black belt -150cm, this really was a first class match with both fighters showing skill way beyond there age. With Giuseppi taking home a deserved gold.

England featured very strongly in the juniors taking home a lot of gold and silver medals, not surprising when they had over four hundred fighters present.However quantity does not mean quality and they certainly had quality in abundance.

One of the best finals of the day was between Anna Kondar Hungary and Ina Grindham, Norway .This really was a very close match, with Ina giving as good as she was taking and the result coming down to the wire on this one.Anna with amazing kicking ability and Ina with movement, however in the end Ann took a deserved gold home to WAKO Hungary.Excellent performance in this division from Cara Donovan, Ireland and

Dilettqa Faiola , Italy , both taking third place.

SO before we get to the main event, which by the way was exactly on time, lets reflect on this years event, yes the numbers where down, due to the economic climate, we believe every tournament in the world will be affected by this, this year and more than likely for a few years to come, it is a commercial reality.However the reduced 1700 competitors coupled with the more balanced program, really allowed the officials, fighters to shine over the three days, with each day finishing exactly on time and allowing everybody space and time to enjoy the weekend in Dublin.

One must also remember that everybody associated to the Irish Open, give their time free of charge and all profits from the event are donated to the ISPCC, a children’s charity in Ireland .Some referees traveled from Italy , England , Czech Republic , Belgium and even USA to help out, work for three days and only get a thank you.

We often forget about the volunteers at such events, working the draw sheets, doing score, keeping areas clear, they all ad up to the success of the event and the safety of the fighters.In today’s credit crunch, it may be more difficult to get people to give of their time freely, but without them we would not be able to function or host such a world class event, so a big thank you from the Organising committee to the all, over 220 volunteers worked over the weekend.

The men’s grand champion had over150 fighters in it, some of the best fighters in the world today or possible ever.Again infamous fighters like, Grillo, De Marco , Mc Menamey, Schmidt, Daniels, Page, Hughes, Neill, Jaroskievicz, Greenhaugh, Spissoy, Gumbi, Luchese,Veres.To name but a few, the level really was astonishing and I do not use that word lightly.The division was run over four areas with the finalist from each area having beaten all his foes on the mat, now had to go one further an beat the winner from his corresponding matt. Raymond Daniels, Lazlo Gombi fought from area C and D, with Daniels winning by the closest of margins on his Hungarian opponent, so close it could have gone ether way, but in the end a win is a win.Jack Felton and Robbie Lavoy both from USA fought from areas A and B, with Felton gaining an advantage on the talented Lavoy, giving him a berth in the final.

The final was a USA v USA event, with Raymond and jack deservedly gaining a position in the final.However from the offset Daniels clearly dominated his tam mate and never allowed him to get in to it and clearly took gold.SO now it is his sixth Irish Open Grand Champion Gold, something I don’t think we will ever see again, most people want to do it one, with legends like, Billy Bryce, Mike Pombero, Jason Tankson and Marco Ferresi having one in the past, but to have one it six times, I think is something very special and whether you hate him or love him, it can not go unsaid that he is consistently the best point fighter in the world over the last five years, like all true champions he can have a bad day or his opponent a very good day, but to do something like this six times, defies belief and he will unquestionably be regarded as on if not the best pointer fighter of this generation.

Next year the Irish Open will be held on 5-6-7 th March in Dublin, SO make sure you book that weekend to attend what has evolved in to something special, run by fighters for fighters, where inspiration and raw talent can be seen in abundance, with world class athletes stepping on a mat to test his/her skills to the extreme with likeminded and talented people, which in the end makes this a very unique and inspiring event each year, the changes unquestionably improved the fighters experiences and as always the tournament organisers will be looking at further ways to improve the event, spectators and fighters experience and remember, they do it for the kids.

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