The Galway Black Dragon Kickboxing Club travelled as part of IKF Team Ireland to the Unified World Championships in Marina Di Carrara in Tuscany for almost a week-long of fighting alongside their teammates from Athlone, Cavan & Kilkenny.
The club had amazing success, taking on countries from all over the World in Both Kickboxing & K-1 and brought home an amazing tally of Gold, Silver & Bronze medals.
The Unifieds are the largest Martial Arts Championships on the planet and attracts thousands of competitors from some 120 countries from all continents and is generally considered as the Olympics of Martial Arts.
Jamie O’Sullivan from Clonberne won out the Senior men’s Light Heavyweight Full Contact Kickboxing Division to become World Champion by defeating England in the final.
O’Sullivan, who was recovering from a nasty cut over the eye which he sustained just three weeks ago when he won the All Ireland Title at a big fight night in Galway, had already took on Czech Republic and then the Ukraine in the Semi-Final before meeting the teak tough Brit in the final for a savage showdown which left both men battered and bruised.
Darren Woods from Corofin had seven fights out in Italy and took home 3 silver medals and one Bronze and was unlucky not to have secured Gold in one of his divisions.
At just fourteen years of age, he had the most amount of fights out there for the entire Irish team and was in some extremely tough fights with Czech Republic, Ukraine, Russia, Italy and Poland to name a few.
Seven years old Belle Foley from Annaghdown had her very first K-1 rules fight in the ring with a little girl from France in the semi-final of the -22kg division and after a full-on three rounds was very unlucky not to have got the win to face England in the final.
She took a well-deserved Bronze medal for her efforts and she also took a Gold medal in the -24kg section by walkover as she was the only entry in that division.
Belle and her French opponent became inseparable friends after their fight and hung out together for the whole four days of the tournament showcasing the true spirit of sport.
Fourteen years old Faith Foley from Annaghdown had five hard fights and defeated Italy in the final of the Girls -42kg Kickboxing division and narrowly lost a close decision to Ukraine in the final of the -44kg division probably in part due to a knee injury in a fight earlier in the day.
Twelve years old Finn Foley from Annaghdown had six fights in total taking on Fighters from France, England, Hungary, Germany, Italy and Ukraine and won two Gold medals and three Silver.
In one of his fights with France, he took his opponent to the canvas with a spectacular head kick, forcing an eight-count in one of the highlight moments of the championships.
Clodagh Foley from Annaghdown (mother to Faith, Finn & Belle), was supposed to have a straight final with Poland in the relatively new UFR Ruleset (Unified Fighting Rules) which is fought over three rounds – the first round is Queensbury rules Boxing, the second round is regular kickboxing and the third round is Low Kick Kickboxing where you can also target the legs.
She won the fight by unanimous decision leaving the Polish Fighters face well bruised up and was then informed it was actually a semi-final and she would now have to fight Denmark in the final (a late entry who was given a bye) to secure Gold.
She was given 20 minutes or so to recover and was then back in for another 3 hard rounds.
Clodagh, who at age 43, had not fought competitively in almost 9 years, went out and defeated the Danish fighter also by unanimous verdict to win the Veteran Ladies UFR World title.
She also took a Gold medal in the senior Veteran ladies -65kg Kickboxing division by walkover due to a no show.
As the team were making their way home from the Championships, John Mulligan caught up with Pete Foley who was understandably proud of his team.
The rest of the Irish Squad also had a great championship and won a haul of medals putting Ireland out there as one of the top countries.
The team, although well battered and bruised up, all gelled together really well and looked out for each other throughout the championships and thankfully took no major damage or injuries.
Galway Black Dragon coach and Irish Team Manager Pete Foley was extremely proud of his fighters and indeed the entire Irish squad who all represented their clubs, counties and country with dignity and pride and flew the Irish flag with passion and respect and were all excellent ambassadors for Ireland.
The sports of Kickboxing and K-1 (and UFR) are extremely hard on the mind and body, particularly at World level and our athletes deserve far more recognition from their town councils and indeed the media than they actually receive.
However, they will continue to travel the World and fly the flag and hopefully someday, they will be more embraced by their own people for all their efforts.
Article by Galway Bay FM