With over 2900 participating competitors, the 2013 Irish Open retained its title as the largest fighting tournament in the world. Held March 1-3 in beautiful Dublin, Ireland, competitors and spectators were treated to intense competition and a beautiful tourist destination.
Team Kiraly from Budapest Hungary had its best event performances to date from the team packed with semi-contact, homegrown superstars. Overall, the Hungary team took home 11 first place wins including wins from nearly all of the Veres family in the individual divisions with Mercedes Veres and Alex Veres winning along with older brother Ritchie Veres in -63 kg semi-contact fighting. Kristian Jaroslaweic and Laszlo Gombos also won their weight classes.
Also present was Raymond Daniels and Team All Stars. Daniels is the defending champion for the men’s open weight (grand championship) competition at the event. Daniels also competed in his individual weight division and made it to the finals to face his young nemesis Zsolt Moradi. The match went into overtime with Moradi scoring with a final kick to win the match 10-7. Robbie Lavoie of Canada was the sole All Star member to win a weight division title. However, the win was hard on Lavoie as he re-injured a newly healed broken hand in his win over Sean Brennan of Ireland. Lavoie was unable to compete in the open weight division the next day. Another exciting match was between Laszlo Gombos of Hungary and Mark McDermott of Ireland. The two went into double overtime with Gombos scoring with a kick to the head in the sudden victory round to win the -75 kg semi-contact division.
In the forms and weapons competition, Luke Scott of the UK won the soft style competition and men’s weapons. It was Micah Karns who managed to make his routine last the required full minute to win the men’s musical forms competition. Competitors from Russia were also on hand in forms and weapons – providing the crowd with lots of entertainment as forms and weapons begin to finally gain a foothold in Europe.
The Irish Open boasted 27 teams for men’s team sparring and 17 teams in the women’s team sparring division. The All Stars suffered an initial defeat on Friday evening as a group of young fighters from Italy’s Team Bestfighter handed them a loss in the quarter-finals for men’s teams. The Bestfighter team moved on to face Team Kiraly for the title and Kiraly handily defeated them for another men’s team sparring title (they won last year as well).
Daniels was not finished as the next day was the open weight competition. The gregarious and recognizable Daniels is considered a celebrity in Europe and was asked to sign autographs and pose for photos all day. While all of this was going on, a quiet storm was brewing with Jack ‘Iceman’ Felton. In order to compete in the open weight division (the only division that has a cash award at the event), competitors must participate in his/her weight division as well. Felton won one fight in his weight division and then bowed out in order to protect his foot that had recently healed.
Winning the open weight division is what gives competitors the true bragging rights for the Irish Open. All competitors of any weight can enter and the men’s division boasted 116 entrants with 78 in the women’s division. In the women’s open weight competition, it was Shannon Brennan of Ireland that took the win to the delight of the hometown crowd. Raymond Daniels was the 2012 defending champion and had won 9 total open weight titles in the past 10 years. The one year he did not win, he did not attend the event and Jack Felton won.
For the men, Daniels was shocked as he was eliminated in overtime in an bracket round by young Tamas Imre of Hungary. Although Daniels protested some of the calls of the fight, the win stood and Imre advanced with Daniels not even making it to the final eight. In another bracket, Jack Felton shocked 2012’s runner up, Zsolt Moradi, by handing Moradi a 9-4 loss. Both Daniels and Moradi ended up watching the finals from the sidelines.
In the end, Kristian Jaroslaweic and Ritchie Veres of Hungary along with Jack Felton of the USA and Roman Brundell of Austria made it to the final four of the open weight division. Brundell surprised Hungary’s Laszlo Gombos with a defeat in a semi-final match.
Jaroslaweic bowed out to Veres to advance Veres to the final match while Felton faced the long, lanky and huge Brundell. Felton fought the match perfectly, capitalizing on Brundell’s length and using his timing and speed to pick Brundell apart and score. This set up Veres and Felton for the finals.
Felton got ahead in the final match initially and hit Veres with a resounding side kick to the gut that made Veres spit out his mouthguard. However, Veres is a veteran and was able stay in the game to end round one down by only one point. In round two, Felton continued to fight smart but Veres stayed with him point for point. The match ended with the fighters tied and went into overtime. In overtime Veres was able to get a 3 point lead with only a few seconds left. Felton scored two points and with 1.6 seconds on the clock, Felton pushed through Veres’ kick and appeared to blast him with a back knuckle as the buzzer sounded. However, only one judge called a point and Veres was crowned the open weight winner for 2013!
After the competition was over, the Irish Open after party festivities began, with Joey Greenhalgh as the Polar Bear DJ. Competitors left their rivalries on the competition floor in order to get onto the dance floor. The party was so exciting that even when security tried to shut it down, the crowd chanted for more!