World Tae Kwon Do Championships 2007, National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, UK
On June 28th 2007 a group of 17 competitors from Mr. Dan O’Mahony’s West Cork Tae Kwon Do clubs travelled to Birmingham as part of a 91 strong Irish team. They were set to compete in the Tae Kwon Do International World Championships, the largest Tae Kwon Do competition in the world to date with 2500 competitors over the 2 days.
On the Thursday the Irish team were treated to a fun day at Alton Towers theme park, this was hoped would relax the students and give them a chance to mix with the rest of the team members.
This was a great hit especially with the younger students and made for a boisterous bus trip to Birmingham.
On the Friday the obligatory height and weight checks were made and competitor I.D.s handed out. The rest of the day was free and most headed into the famous Bullring shopping district for some retail therapy.
Saturday, the first competition day dawned early with competitors at the National Indoor Arena, Birmingham at 8am. Once inside the Irish team and supporters secured a large section of the stands and decked them out in several tri-colours, there was no fear of anyone getting lost even in such a huge venue.
Next up was the opening ceremony where all the competitors paraded onto the arena floor after their country s flag. The entire floor was now filled with teams from all over the world and made an impressive picture with the different colour uniforms of each nationality. After the speeches and formalities the floor was cleared. 26 rings were set up in a matter of minutes and the event started immediately.
Saturday was senior sparring day with 6 West Cork students doing battle on the day. They were Alan Cronin and Dwayne Crowley of Crossbarry and Ann O’Mahony of Lisavaird, all debutants at international level. Not that they showed it in the ring, putting in World class performances. Unlucky on this occasion their future on the international circuit looks bright.
Also in the ring were the more seasoned competitors Donal Shorten of Ballineen, Ria Googan of Clonakilty and Aoife Sheehan of Cape Clear. Putting in his usual strong performance Donal fought well but was just pipped in the second round.
When Ria Googan entered her respective ring she looked like she was up against it with most of her opponents being much taller. This made no difference to Ria as she stormed through the earlier rounds with lightning fast kicks and punching combinations devastating her opposition.
Reaching the semi-finals Ria met a very strong fighter but held her own and was only edged out in the dying seconds of the bout. Ria had to settle for bronze this time but should be proud of her performance.
The highlight of Saturday was undoubtedly when Aoife Sheehan stepped into the ring. Aoife who has been competing internationally with a number of years and rarely out of the medals, though still chasing that elusive gold was determined to achieve the ultimate this time. Her early rounds were one-sided affairs with Aoife taking the fight to her opponents. In no time she had reached the semi-final the 2×2 minute rounds all taken in her stride she received a unanimous decision by all 4 referees.
Now a nervous wait ensued as all finals were held over until the end of the day and staying focused was a difficult job. Finally it was announced and the entire Irish team came to ringside to cheer her on. She was facing a strong English fighter with home advantage but Aoife s fans made her feel comfortable. Aoife started a bit shaky and the English fighter had edged ahead, then Aoife settled into her routine with her trade mark axe kick and following up with hand combinations. By the end of round one Aoife was on top and taking control of the fight. Round two was Aoife’s with her opponent unable to cope with the Irish fighter s fitness and technique. Time was called and again the refs’ decision was unanimous: Aoife was declared World Champion and the Irish went wild especially her coach Dan O’Mahony.
With the perfect end to the day the team travelled back to their hotel. Holding back on the celebrations as another full day of competition beckoned on Sunday with 11 more West Cork students to compete a quiet night was had by all.
After a second opening parade and Martial Arts display the competition resumed. Sunday was patterns(the technical side of Tae Kwon Do), juniors, executive black belts and team sparring day. Patterns were run off first with Ann O’Mahony of Lisavaird and Andrew Mc Carthy of Timoleague getting the best marks of the Irish and only just missing the medals. Excellent performances were also put in by four ladies from Baltimore Matilda and Phoebe Olsen, Emer Downing and Ciara Flaherty the latter three having just sat their Leaving Cert. exam showing outstanding commitment to their art.
With the patterns over the sparring sections started up again. It was the turn of the junior fighters first (age 16 and under). These sections are divided by height and not age to ensure fighters are evenly matched. First timers Internationally Lisa Hayes from Ardfield and Andrew Mc Carthy put in some great performances but were unlucky this time.
Next up was Jamie Googan from Clonakilty who took his fight to extra time and was narrowly beaten. Claire Wilcox also from Clon won her first round comfortably and then to the disbelief of all watching had the decision go against her in the next fight. Claire out to prove a point joined with two girls from Cobh and took silver in the team event. Narrowly losing to Northern Ireland in the final and beating the English team in the Semis.
Amy Shorten of Ballineen had a similar experience in the individuals with her second fight going to extra time. Amy not to be out done entered the team event with two other members of the Irish squad and pulled off the double with another silver medal for the West Cork crew.
The last junior to go was 12 year old Black Belt Aisling O’ Driscoll of Ballineen. Facing fighters of 16 and under did not faze the Irish girl and she went for her opponents at a blistering pace, fighting like a seasoned pro. Dominating every fight she had her opposition out of the ring on several occasions. It was no surprise when she arrived at the final and her coach Dan O’Mahony could hardly contain his excitement to think he had a second student with a chance of taking gold. When the final was called once again the team showed their support ringside and what a final it turned out to be… Billed as a 2×2 minute bout Aisling had other ideas forcing her opponent out of the ring three times in the first 30 seconds of round one. The fighter was so over awed by this she refused to continue the bout and so Aisling was crowned World Champion much to the delight of the Irish team.
While Aisling was winning her title Anne O’Mahony of Shannon Vale was fighting in the next ring and drew the eventual winner in her second round. Losing by just two points to the much taller fighter was not too disappointing when her good friend was celebrating in the next ring.
That was not the end of the medals for the West Cork gang as the other Ann O’Mahony from Lisavaird had been asked to join the Irish ladies colour belt team for the sparring event. Winning third she received a well deserved bronze medal having come so close in patterns and the individual sections justice was done.
So at the end of day two the Irish team had 2 new World Champions both training with the Clonakilty Tae Kwon Do club and the final tally for Dan s students was 2 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze and out-standing performances by all 17 students. That night finished with a huge party at the stadium and much celebrations after at the hotel where the Irish proved they could sing as well as compete.
Well done to all who travelled and who put in so much commitment and training for this huge event and thanks to everyone who supported or sponsored these ambassadors for our country.