Double cup win for DU Karate Club

Nicholas FitzGerald


November was a good month for the DU Karate Club, seeing them lift the Dublin Inter-Collegiate Cup in UCD and the O’ Connor Cup in Galway City. The competitions entailed students competing in kumite (sparring) and kata (forms) at Junior, Intermediate and Senior level. The Inter-Collegiate Cup, which was open to all Dublin colleges, was a closely fought contest and at the final count, DUKC beat their UCD rivals by a point to take the cup, with DCU finishing in third place. There was a friendly atmosphere about the whole event, with an all-inclusive training session before the competitions and food and drinks in the UCD Student Bar afterwards. The contests were officiated by instructors from the competing colleges. DUKC Captain, Clodagh Nerney led the way by winning in Senior Female Kumite. Secretary James McKeown followed suit, winning in Intermediate Male Kumite and Treasuer Ruth Gavin took gold in Intermediate Mixed Kata. Nicholas FitzGerald won in Junior Male Kumite and newcomer Kaspar Snashall won in Beginners’ Mixed Kata. College was also represented by Jonathan Moran, Andy O’Neill, Monika Myszor, Kevin Moran and Elliott Strain, who contributed vital silver and bronze medals to the overall points tally. The students were coached on the day by instructor Steve Macdonald, whose provision of wisdom (and Jaffa Cakes) was integral to the team’s success. The points were tallied at a warm and friendly reception in UCD Student Bar where medals were awarded and photos taken. Finally, DUKC were announced overall winners and UCD captain Elizabeth Ní Threasaigh presented them with the brand new trophy, courtesy of sponsors AIB. DUKC shared a traditional toast from the cup and continued the night in jubilant mood.

“The Inter-Collegiate Cup, which was open to all Dublin colleges, was a closely fought contest and at the final count, DUKC beat their UCD rivals by a point to take the cup…”

 The celebrations were immediately followed by intense training for the O’ Connor Cup in Galway, named after Kyoshi Stephen O’ Connor, who founded DUKC over thirty years ago. The competition is organised each year by two of his students, Sensei John Ryan of Galway and Sensei Malachy Dunne of DUKC. It is contested by students of TCD, RCSI and DIT and is held in Sensei Ryan’s hometown of Galway City, the destination of the weekend trip which has become something of a Karate Club institution. Here students share a hostel with their fellow karateka from DIT and RCSI and are treated to karate training from Sensei Ryan, often entailing training on the beach (and in the water!), some hot whiskey to share afterwards, and nights out in Galway City. But on Sunday it is down to business and the O’Connor Cup competition kicks off. The contest this year was closely fought with DIT fielding a very strong team. College eventually ran out winners by two points with Clodagh Nerney and Ruth Gavin taking first place in Senior Kata and Intermediate Kata respectively. First year student Andy O’Neill won gold in both Senior Kumite and Senior Kata, and there were near misses for some of DU Karate’s newest members, Elliott Strain, Kevin Moran and Monika Myszor, who competed impressively against more seasoned opposition and contributed to the bronze and silver medal tally. There was again a convivial atmosphere to the competition, with the traditional pictures taken and medals awarded afterwards. Closing words came from Sensei Ryan, who commended the students on the standard of their karate and on the effort and spirit shown. He summarised the weekend’s training by emphasising the importance of movement and the knowing what to do next after a deliberate or evasive movement.

DIT instructor Trevor Hewitt pointed out that Sensei Ryan’s emphasis on movement is particularly appropriate as the Japanese character on Kyoshi O’Connor’s crest translates simply as “movement”. Throughout the training and competitions (which were officiated by Sensei Ryan and seniors Stewart Flood of DIT, Evelyn Doherty of TCD and Trevor Hewitt of DIT), students gained the benefit of help, advice, tuition and instruction from the senior instructors. Technical aspects of karate were addressed in the competitions and the training sessions, as well as the psychological aspects of karate, such as focus, commitment and decisiveness. Where spirit, or commitment or energy was lacking in the students’ kata (forms), Sensei Ryan was not shy to ask competitors to try again but with more involvement. A similar ethos was apparent in kumite (sparring), with points being awarded for strong, decisive techniques. Sensei Ryan brought an end to the 2013 O’Connor Cup by congratulating everyone for taking part and for their own personal achievements over the weekend. He added that it can be an achievement in itself to compete in a kata or kumite competition as you have only yourself on which to rely.  Next on the horizon is the Inter-varsity Competition in March, which will also be held in Galway, the training for which begins in earnest. With two titles under their belts (no pun intended), let’s hope their good form continues and Trinity Karate Club can win the treble.