Ophir Karate team do it in style

Tom Cunningham(Coach), Mathew Daly, Craig Ryan, Pearse O'Callaghan, Niamh Cunningham and Siobhan Leckey (Referee and Chief Instructor)
Tom Cunningham(Coach), Mathew Daly, Craig Ryan, Pearse O'Callaghan, Niamh Cunningham and Siobhan Leckey (Referee and Chief Instructor)

Four members of Ophir Karate were selected to represent Ireland at the 46th Federation of European Wado-Kai Karate championship in Hungary 5-6 October 2019 and certainly did not let the side down.

Criag Ryan (Lisburn), Niamh Cunningham (Crossgar), Pearse O’Callaghan (Belfast) and Mathew Daly (Belfast) each competed in their respective categories to medal at the championship.

Mathew Daly, Craig Ryan, Pearse O'Callaghan and Niamh Cunningham

Mathew Daly, Craig Ryan, Pearse O'Callaghan and Niamh Cunningham

This is Ophir Karate club’s best ever result. Assisted by the team coach, Tom Cunningham and chief instructor Siobhan Leckey, Ophir’s team brought home 2 Gold medals, 1 Silver medal and 1 Bronze medal from this prestigious tournament.

Chief instructor, Sensei Siobhan Leckey said that she was absolutely delighted with the performances and results of her team, which proves that with perseverance, dedication and commitment to training, success in the international arena is possible for anyone who has the desire to win.

Niamh Cunningham from Crossgar took Ophir’s first medal of the tournament, gold in the Under 21yrs Female Kata category and set the standard for the rest of the team. Niamh dedicated a lot of time and energy into her training over the last year, she was gutted when she narrowly missed out on a medal place last year at the FEW European Wado-Kai Karate tournament and vowed to herself to come back better and stronger.

Her instructor, Sensei Siobhan Leckey said she was very pleased with how Niamh had managed to improve in her performance and polish her technique to such a high standard and this victory was well deserved.

Niamh also took the opportunity to pitch herself against the senior ladies in the Over 18yrs Female Kata category and narrowly missed out on a bronze medal. This is further proof that she is on the right track for future successes.

Mathew Daly from North Belfast was narrowly beaten in the semi-finals of the Male Junior (16-17yrs) Kata category and had to fight off in the repechage to win the bronze medal (Ophir’s 2 nd medal of the tournament on day 1). Mathew has been training with Ophir Karate in the Headquarters dojo for nearly 10 years and has shown great courage and discipline by maintaining his training to reach this level in karate. Mathew attended the Wado-Kai All Nations championship in August 2018 and fought to achieve bronze medal in the Male Cadet (14-15yrs) Kata category, his coach Tom Cunningham said that Mathew had done brilliantly to step up from Cadets to Juniors and still come away with a medal in this event. He said that kata performance takes a lot of training to reach this standard, especially as the judges are looking for a high level of technical performance as well as speed, power, balance and realism of the martial art.

Pearse O’Callaghan from West Belfast started day 2 of the tournament with dogged determination to win. He unfortunately, was unsuccessful at placing in the Male Under 21yrs Kata category on day 1, he was very unlucky to not medal with a 2-3 split decision in the 3 rd round. Day 2 of the event catered for all kumite categories and Pearse had his sights focused on the prize. In the Under 21yrs Male Kumite -67kg category, Pearse beat Wales in the first round, Macedonia in the 2 nd round and met an extremely experienced fighter from Ukraine in the finals. Pearse was first to score, which gave him the advantage, his opponent got one back and then another but Pearse fought back to bring the score to 2-2 before his opponent got a last minute point, in the dying seconds Pearse needed another score but was just not able to pull it out of the bag and lost to a better competitor from Ukraine. Pearse had to settle for silver but his coach Tom Cunningham said that he was very pleased with his performance overall, Pearse showed great tenacity and composure by keeping his emotions under control throughout the tournament, taking each fight one at a time, carefully controlling his opponents with quick reactions and precise targeting, scoring points using a range of

kicking and punching techniques.

Craig Ryan from Lisburn has been training in Ophir dojo for the last 4-5yrs, he has been selected to represent Ireland at other European and World events. Last year, Craig won a bronze medal at the Wado-Kai All Nations Championship held in Leicester, England, which saw teams from all over the world meet to compete for the world title. In Hungary last weekend, Craig knew his competition and prepared himself well to meet the challenge of this tournament. Craig beat off 3 very strong Scottish fighters to take the title of 2019 FEW Male Senior -75kg Kumite Champion. His coach Tom Cunningham said that he was proud of Craig for keeping calm under pressure and bringing the fight to each competitor round by round and polished off our team’s successes late on day 2.

Ophir Karate’s Chief instructor, Siobhan Leckey said that the traditional karate training and ethos within the club is proof that the quality of instruction is among the best in Northern Ireland along with team spirit and camaraderie which is second to none, makes for our success in both disciplines of karate competition.

Ophir Karate-do Wado-Kai is always looking for new talent to nurture. If you are interested in joining up, contact Ophir’s chief instructor, Siobhan Leckey by email on Siobhan_leckey@yahoo.co.uk or contact Ophir Karate on Facebook.