The 2015 Irish Open karate tournament lived up to its name as the largest fighting event in Europe, and perhaps the world. There were over 4000 registrants for the 2015 event, a substantial increase from the prior year. Some of the biggest growth was seen in the forms and weapons divisions as the event expanded the area for forms and weapons competition and attracted well over 300 competitors for those events alone. Held March 5-8, 2015 in the City West Hotel just outside Dublin, Ireland, the event offered something for everyone. Sanctioned by the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) and part of the Open World Tour – the event offered competitor friendly fighting rules and numerous fighting events for participants. Full-contact, semi-contact divisions were provided but the most popular were the point sparring events.
Present at the event were some of the top teams in sport karate. Team All Stars, led by Raymond Daniels, was ready to reclaim the men’s team sparring title and defend Daniels’ open weight titles. Team Kiraly of Hungary was there to defend their team sparring titles and topple the All Stars. In the mix, teams from around the world had their eye on the prize with the goal of upsetting the favorites and bringing home glory to their schools and countries.
Competition started Friday night with men’s and women’s team sparring and a new junior team sparring division. 29 men’s teams, 17 women’s teams and 19 junior teams entered the competition. Hungary’s Team Kiraly doesn’t stop expanding its talent and women’s teams and junior teams were perfect divisions for them to get show the depth of their competitors. In the women’s division, the final two teams were last year’s winners – Top Ten UK – facing Team Kiraly. Kiraly opened with a substantial lead and never looked back as the Kiraly women took the women’s title.
In juniors, there was talent everywhere. Team All Stars juniors were knocked out of the running in the semi-finals as were a great line up from Italy featuring Davide Colla. In the end, the BMA babies of Ireland faced off against the Kiraly juniors with Kiraly coming out the winner for second team title for Hungary.
The men’s team sparring has been dominated by Team Kiraly for the last few years. This year, Team All Stars wanted that title but it was not looking like it would happen after round 1 as Zsolt Moradi was able to give Kiraly a 12 point lead in his match against Jamal Albini. Although normally All Stars rely on Raymond Daniels for comebacks, this time Trevor Nash was the one as he brought the All Stars within 4 points after his fight against Tamas Imre. The final match between Jack Felton and Laszlo Gombos had everyone on the edge of their seats. Felton, the clutch fighter, was able to tie the match with only 30 seconds left in the match.
Gombos and Felton exchanged points and, with only a second to go on the clock, Felton scored the winning point to give All Stars a one point lead and All Stars became the 2015 Irish Open Men’s Team Sparring Champions!
Saturday was the eliminations and finals for the adult individual point sparring divisions, adult light contact and full contact as well as junior forms and weapons. In forms and weapons, as expected, the Americans cleaned up well. Team Paul Mitchell did just fine with Jackson Rudolph, Mackensi Emory and Tyler Weaver winning their respective divisions. Rudolph’s biggest challenges came from Jacob Pinto and Israel’s Shai Rimon who took 2nd and 3rd respectively in weapons.
Individual weight divisions for fighting pit fighters against each other in two, 2-minute rounds for each match. And the final fight goes to the stage in the Irish Open finals on Saturday night. To get to the final match, competitors had to fight in divisions with 50 or more competitors – some with over 100. Raymond Daniels has been fighting and training for full contact competition with Glory for the past 6-8 months so the weight class divisions were his opportunity to get his timing back in point sparring. After a not-so-great performance in teams the night before, he looked like he was getting back on track during the eliminations. It got a little heated in his final match in his bracket when young Ross Cooke had the score tied 8-8 at the end of round 1. Daniels started round 2 with a 6-1 run against Cooke and then gave Cooke a bloody nose to seal the win. Daniels would end up fighting his Hungarian nemesis Tamas Imre later in the finals. Dessie Leonard of Ireland had a great match against Ritchie Veres of Hungary as Leonard eliminated Veres in the -69 kg division but was later eliminated by Justin Ortiz of the USA as Ortiz got the berth to the finals. And Veres’ brother Roland who won last year was eliminated by Fletch Thomas of the UK as Thomas moved to the stage.
In the finals, Fletch Thomas sealed the deal with a win over Dylan Heffernan. Although Dessie Leonard did not get to stage in -69kg, he did get to fight Laszlo Gombos in -74kg for the title with Leonard coming out the victor. Davide Colla was a champion in -63kg with Zsolt Moradi and Italians Roberto Guiducci and Paolo Niceforo. Justin Ortiz took his divisions while Adam Dingmann was eliminated by Krizstian Jaroskevicz. Luisa Guillotti, the 2014 Open Weight winner was the victor in her weight class as were Anna Kondar, Roberta Cavallero and Bev Sturzaker. The Imre versus Daniels match was a close one with Imre never letting Daniels get an advantage. In the end, Imre held his own and when the buzzer sounded, Imre was up 8-7 to take the big win home for -89kg point fighting.
The final competition for the Irish Open is on Sunday for the adult Open Weight Fighting. Sunday is also the time for adult forms and weapons and the junior point and light contact competition. There were so many competitors that the Open Weight competition was pushed back to allow all the juniors to complete competition. Once Open Weight got started, it ran smoothly and quickly with fights happening right away. With four brackets for the men and two for the women – the Open Weight competition could match anyone up for some great fighting.
For the women, some new faces advanced. Evelyn Neyens, Bev Sturzaker, Shauna Bannon and Guila Cavallero all made it. Zsolt Moradi fought through a tough bracket, defeating Trevor Nash and Robbie Lavoie along the way to end up in the final four for the men’s open weigh competition. Cass Sigmon defeated open weight 2014 final four competitor Roman Brundl of Austria and then faced teammate Justin Ortiz. Ortiz won a close one and moved one to face Laszlo Gombos. Gombos won a close one with a score of 3-2 and was in the final four for men’s open weight. Raymond Daniels blew through the competition defeating both Ritchie and Roland Veres in his bracket to end in the final four. The final bracket had some incredible fighters and some incredible fights. Tamas Imre was on fire as he defeated Kameren Dawson to advance in the bracket. Timmy Sarantoudis of Germany had a crazy fight with Ross Cooke with Sarantoudis advancing. Kevin Walker defeated Hungary’s Krizstian Jaroszkievicz to advance while Jack Felton faced Tamas Imre. Imre was great in the fight and Felton was unable to overcome Imre as Imre advanced to face Kevin Walker. Walker was the last hope to prevent the final four for open weight from becoming 3 Hungarians and Raymond Daniels. The Walker and Imre fight was close but Imre held on to win 4-2 and advance.
The Open Weight finals had a huge crowd gathered around. In the women’s semi-finals, Evelyn Neyens defeated Guila Cavallero in the first match. Bev Sturzaker took out Shauna Bannon with an 8-4 score to also advance. For the men, the semi-finals consisted of one fight as Raymond Daniels took on Laszlo Gombos. Daniels was ahead at the end of the first round and was still ahead at the buzzer as he took an 11-9 win. Tamas Imre bowed out to teammate Zsolt Moradi due to injury setting up a Daniels versus Moradi finals.
Neyens had never won an open weight title from Irish Open despite years of consistent work and attempts. This year she was determined. After round one, Neyens was up 5-3 over Sturzaker. In round two, Neyens held her own and the Belgian won 11-9 to take her first Open Weight Irish Open title.
Zsolt Moradi decided to go with his bread-and-butter techniques which are kicks to go after Daniels in the men’s Open Weight finals. Daniels could not get past Moradi’s strong front leg. In the end, Moradi got the lead and held it to win 8-3 and take the men’s Open Weight title stopping Daniels from winning his 11th.
Once the Open Weight competition was done, there was nothing left to do but get ready for the infamous Irish Open After Party. This year, SMA’s own Nick Schneider was the DJ and the party went on literally until the break of dawn. At 4 am, the music was unplugged and the crowd dispersed. Another successful Irish Open! For more videos, photos and information check out www.sportmartialarts.com.