This year you knew there was something different about the Irish Open before the event was even started.There was an excitement and energy on the website unlike anything that happened before, the running order was sent out four days before the tournament, something that has never happened with a tournament of this size, detailing each division and the time it would begin.
This year for the first time the Irish Open moved to the New City West Convention Centre, with 75,000 Sq Ft of floor space and elevated seating for over 9,000 people, size and space was not going to be an issue this year. It is one of the most impressive indoor convention centers I have ever seen.
2156 fighters from all over the world converged on Dublin for the most prestigious tournament title there is today, the new arena and hotel directly connected to it, brought about an operational efficiency to the event that had a huge positive impact over the whole weekend.
Fighters had a world class arena connected to a world class Hotel with significant leisure facilities and beautiful grounds surrounding all of it, it really was a win win situation.
With the addition of Full Contact and Musical Forms this year, everybody was excited about the new format and new facilities.
The event this year once again was run for the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children ( ISPCC)All profits from the event are donated to this just and worthy charity.Over 150 volunteers worked over four days for the betterment of the sport and the support of a very worthy charity.
Day one saw fighters from 31 countries arrive in City west for the weight control and height check.It was interesting to see so many people jogging in the grounds to ensure they made the weight.
Friday night the team event and full contact eliminations began at 7pm.28 teams of four men and one woman challenged for the prestigious Irish Open team Winners award.As always the team event brought a unique energy to it, this year there was six American teams in the mix and a Russian team for the first time. Team Best fighter ( Top Ten) fought against team, USA All Stars, with the American team marginally taking the win.Full Circle (USA) against team Király from Hungary was the other semi final with Király taking the deserved win and a place in the final.The final was fantastic after four bout’s there was only one point in it and it was down to the two females.The USA female proved to fast for the Anna and took the winner’s podium for her team and the overall prize to USA.
Male Black Belts
Each year the black belt division seems to grow and grow, the largest division this year was the -74kg Male black belt division with 96 fighters in it, it started at 11.45am and finished at 6.30pm, it was without question the most difficult division at the event, The final between Jack Felton, USA and Gregorio De Lio from Italy was text book, tow of the most talented fighters in the world today against each other having fought several hard and close battles to get there.In the end Felton who in this writers view was the fighter of the tournament won, taking the converted Irish Open trophy and winners glove.
Manueal Esposito from Italy took on Robbie Lavoie from Canada in the -57kg Final with Esposito the current WAKO World dominating the former World Champion from the start the Italian surprisingly took control and the lead right through the match.
Irelands Robbie Mc Menamy was in the -84kg final against the legendary Raymond Daniels in an electric and close tied match.Nether fighter had a margin throughout the match above two points, it was a strategic and incredibly tactical fight, with six seconds to go mc Menamy scored a lead jab taking him one point above Daniels, at the go Mc Menamy lifted his leg to counter any move by Daniels and just at time exited a frank and heated debate took place at the end the judges issued an exit warning to Mc Menamy and he took the title, it was a fantastic and close fought fight by two of the top fighters the world has today.
There is no stage in the world which has so many fighters from so many countries all participating over the same weekend, with EVERY black belt division having over 50 fighters it was literally the who is who of point fighting in the world today.The energy and excitement of people when they saw the new arena and layout was palatable, it brought the sport of Kickboxing to a new and higher level.
The Female Semi Contact grand Champion division was exceptionally difficulty, both semi finals where the Italy v Hungary, with the two Italians winning through to the final Gloria DeBei and Luisa Gullotti.Beating Barbara Szendrei and Anna Kondar from Hungary. De Bei is the female equivalent of Daniels, she is a world class player who is consistently at the top and deserves to be admired and revealed by fighters, this is her third Irish Open grand title win, an exceptional accomplishment by any standard.
In light contact Irelands Shane Lynch was against Levente Bertlan, lynch was on form this year with strong kicking and punching dominated his opponent from the offset and took home a 3-0 decision.
Hungary’s Legandry Light Contact fighter, Zolton Dansco won his sixth Irish Open title in a row beating a game and improving Toby Bemuler.Irelands Sinead Beasley was against Italy’s LIDIA CALDARONI in the -50kg Light Contact Final, The ever improving Sinead was to strong for her Italian opponent and showed great skill and tactical ability in dispatching her opponent in a 3-0 win.
Irelands Tony Stephenson took the -69kg Light Contact section and showed why he is the current Junior and Senior World -63kg Champion.
.97 fighters from 16 countries participated in full contact this year which was the first year it has been promoted as part of the event.It was a huge success as there had never been a event in full run like this in Ireland before and it gave the Irish Full contact fighter and opportunity to compete against several opponents over a weekend.Norway where particularly strong this year in Full, brining over several world and European Champions as where Finland.
In full contact Irelands George Valantini and Rebecca Dillon both took Full Contact Gold’s, with Richard Kiely just missing out on a gold medal in the -86kg Division This was the first year fro forms at the Irish Open with 100 competitors from nine countries participating under the watchful eye of Chief Referee Brian Beck.Amanda Chen from USA tool the -12 year old firms with a strong form and Ross Chatterton and Jessica Holmes dominating a number of divisions. The winners in Women’s full where -56kg Tonje Sorlie, Fam Elgan, Cathrine Fonnes and Birgit Oksnes.
Sunday saw the children divisions, the male grand champion and the female black divisions, the event kicked off at 11.30am with all 16 areas running.Each year the level of the cadet nad juniors increased two fold,
In the boys lack belt divisions, Luke Hensey Tom Liam and Petros Kanstantinou all showed skill and ability way beyond their age, they where as fast and as talented at the adults in similar weight classes.A similar comment has to be said for the Junior Girl Champions,Teresa Tomassi, Nicola Duffy , Ashleigh Martin and Matrina Lanzilao.Really amazing seeing the technical and tactical ability’s of these young martial art athletes, the future looks promising for the sport of Kickboxing with such talented young practitioners.
The men’s grand champion saw 187 fighters form 28 countries vie for the most converted title in Point Fighting in the world today, the male Irish Open grand Champion.Four matter areas took three hours each to work through the draws to come up with the top fighter from each area for the semi final.Watching each are one could not but be amazed at the talent and genuine effort being put out by each and every fighter there to win.Mark mc Dermot from Ireland fought all the way through to the final of his area to be narrowly beaten by Jason Tankson from USA for a semi final slot.The final was between jack Felton and Raymond Daniels both USA.For me Felton was the fighter of the tournament for consistency, approach and presence, he is a wonderful young man with a great future ahead of him.Raymond, what can you say about the most prolific and talented fighter of this decade, his ability and charisma are unmatched.The initial round I the final was surprising with Jack taking a five point lead on Daniels, however a turning point was at the end of round one with 2 seconds to go, Felton relaxed for a split second waiting on the time, which Raymond immediately capitalized on and gained a point, this seemed to change the match and game plan, with Daniels slowly but methodically clawing back the lead and taking the Irish Open grand Champion Prize for the seventh time.To win one is most fighters dream, seven ?.Love him or dislike him, he is without question the greatest talent in point fighting in the world today, maybe ever, he like everybody can be beaten on a day, but he is consistently year after year beating the very best there on the worlds largest stages.
All in all 2010 was probably the best Irish Open, The increase in participants in a difficult financial climate was unexpected, the enhanced services and space with the new arena and hotel brought a comfort and ease to the whole three days never seen before, the fighters where happy the event organizers where happy, the referees where happy and to be frank and probably biast, it was the bet tournament I have event been to and in the words of people like Dominico De Marco, Zolt Moradi, Istvan Kiraley, Nicos memos and I quote, “ the tournament of the decade ” .
A huge thank you has to go out to the referees who worked tirelessly for the whole weekend looking after the health and safety of the fighters, in particular all the international and chief referees of each of the sixteen areas.
Next year’s dates have been confirmed.4/5/6th march City West Convention Centre.We are sure that following this year’s unparallel success there will be more fighters from more countries.