SKIF Ireland PRO Report on 15th SKIEF European Championships
After a wait of five long years the 15th SKIEF European championships were held in the Southern Dutch city of S-Hertogenbosh. Preparation for the championships began as soon as clubs were permitted to once again train after the Covid pandemic with regular squad training held at the Moyle Rovers venue in Clonmel. Sensei Philip McCarthy (Kata), and Sensei Garrett O’Donovan (Kumite) were the coaches tasked with the job of getting our squad ready to compete and hopefully win a few medals along the way. Jacqui O’Shea was appointed team manager and put many hours of time, work and planning into ensuring everything went as smooth as possible, organising, hotels, buses, gear, etc. Well done Jacqui we are very thankful for the excellent job you done.
With over fifty years between our youngest and oldest competitors we had a nice blend of experienced campaigners and new young talent competing on the big stage. A spanner was thrown into the works four weeks before our departure when our flights were cancelled, a scramble ensued to rebook flights for everyone with phone calls and messages flying around the squad trying to assess the best viable options available. As a result, we could not travel as a squad as planned but none the less, we all arrived albeit at various times and airports. Nevertheless, we did all manage to get there in the end and on time.
On arrival at our hotel, we were welcomed by our team manager who had our rooms allocated and checked in. The hotel was situated in Vught, a quiet suburb of Den Bosh. Unlike home the weather was warm and balmy, and it was not long before a few of our squad availed of the hotel bicycles and took off on the fantastic cycleways around the area. Preceding the championships, we had a delegation of referees undergoing almost two days of extensive training followed by an exam with a view to refereeing over the weekend, I am glad to say all five received their C licence and represented us brilliantly over the weekend. Congratulations to Sensei’s Kevin Sullivan, Kathleen Byrne, Aaron Kenneally, Martin O’Keeffe and Neil Long. Well done also to our chief instructor Sensei Ray Payne who is regarded as one of the top referees in SKIF, while he was not running around the Tatami on this occasion due to a recent surgery he was very much involved with proceedings over the weekend as a Koto-Cho and Shushin.We would like to wish Sensei Payne a speedy and full recovery.
This the day we get to go to the arena and get a feel of the mats and venue. Two hours were booked on the Tatami and all the squad had a nice session, it was great to clear out the cobwebs from traveling and get moving again. Some last-minute advice from the coaches and then the realisation that YES, we are finally here.
Competition time is upon us; the training is done the talking is over its now down to the competitors. The Masters are out first, and they did not disappoint, Sensei Philip McCarthy winning gold (Kata) and silver (Kumite). This was followed with Jacqui O’ Shea winning a bronze (Kata), Eadaoin Coleman bronze (Kata), Stephen Whitney silver (Kata), Yuka Evans gold (Kata) and silver (Kumite), Eric McCarthy silver (Kumite), Aoife Ni Labhradha bronze (Kumite) and finally Mick Corbett bronze (Kumite). Mick Brett and Stuart Hickey (Kumite) fought very well on the day but were outside the medals. Martin O’Keeffe and Aaron Kenneally (Kata) were unlucky not to progress but put in very good performances. Next up was the turn of the Juniors, we had excellent performances from these young Karateka, and they should be immensely proud of their achievements. In Kata, our youngest competitor Breandan Twohig got into the quarter final of his pool, Eddie Sheehan, James McCarthy, Ryan O’Shea, Aela Ryan, and Ava de Burca all performed well in their categories and will gain great experience from their performances.
The seniors and Cadets were out today. Starting with Kata we had hopes of some good performances here. Clara Deady, Ciara Delea, Aisling O’Donovan, Brighid Twohig, Robert Lehane, Eddie Sheehan, Kevin O’Donoghue, and Paddy Lacey all performed brilliantly, some of our competitors were very unlucky with tight decisions going against them. Star of the Senior Kata though had to be Ben O’Donoghue who reached the final in what was a big category, Ben had excellent performances throughout and deserved his place in the last eight, sadly he did not medal but it certainly bodes well for the future. He is the first male finalist in a major championship for Ireland in almost thirty years, this puts some perspective on his achievement.
In Kumite we did not do as well as hoped, having said that we have incredibly young competitors in these categories and the experience gained will be invaluable to them. That is not to say the opposition had it all their own way, far from it, we did have very good performances and again some were unlucky not to progress further. In the female section there was particularly good performances from Ciara Delea, Abbie Brett, Brighid Twohig, Clarissa Lonergan, Aisling O’Donovan, and Emma Ryan and in the male section Ben O’Donoghue, Eoghan Long, Adam Whitney, Robert Lehane, Kevin O’Donoghue, Paddy Lacey, and Dillion Brett all performed well. It is worth noting once more these are young fighters and to go out and be counted at a major championship cannot be underestimated, they can be extremely proud of their achievements.
Team events were the order of the day today in both Kata and Kumite. The masters had an early start with Eadaoin Coleman, Jacqui O’Shea and Yuka Evans picking up silver in the Kata, this was a great medal to win considering they had very little done as a team. Another medal quickly followed this time a bronze for the mixed masters 150+, Martin O’Keeffe, Stephen Whitney, and Eric McCarthy. They were unlucky not to get the silver as they were tied for second but were not as good as their counterparts in the rematch. Our junior and senior teams were not as lucky this time around but very good performances especially from Aela Ryan, Emma Ryan and Aisling O’Donovan who were only point three from a medal. With a little bit of work there is great prospects of medals in the team kata categories.
In Kumite our lady’s team of Ciara Delea, Brighid Twohig, Abbie Brett, and Clarissa Lonergan acquitted themselves well. Again, very tight decisions going against them to decide their fights. The men’s team were given a buoy into the second round, this was unfortunate in a sense as if they were beaten in their first three fights the fourth and fifth would not get an opportunity and sadly this was the case. It must be stressed again that this team is incredibly young with their captain Ben O’Donoghue the eldest at only 23 years. Also on the team were Eoghan Long, Paddy Lacey, Adam Whitney, Robert Lehane, Dillion Brett, and Kevin O’Donoghue all of which fought in the cadets.
This concluded the competition all that was left was the sayonara party and the trip home. It was great to meet up with old friends from around Europe and get back competing once again. We would like to thank all the parents and supporters who travelled with us and hope you enjoyed the experience. A big well done to all officials and competitors who played their part in making it a successful trip.
SKIF Ireland PRO