By Caoilte de Barra
After finishing fifth on the medal table at the 2021 Youth World Championships, Ireland will return with an even bigger squad with hopes of trumping last year’s success. The team of forty is a new record for the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) at any level.
The federation has put a lot of work into the team heading to Abu Dhabi, organising multiple squad sessions before and after the national championships to help the team develop together.
Last year twenty-five athletes made the trip to Sofia, and the sole gold and silver medals came through Max Lally and Jordan Scully, who have since gone on to represent Ireland at a junior level.
Although some previous medalists have graduated from the youth ranks, others continue to progress through the youth categories. Amongst the group are Relentless Martial Arts duo Olivia Babiarz and Alison Syron, who both secured bronze in their respective categories last year. They have been actively competing in various martial arts, and both won gold at the national championships earlier this year, as well as winning gold at the Sandee Open in the UK.
After settling for bronze last year, Alex Keogh is moving to Featherweight in the Youth A category. The SBG Naas prospect is highly touted after impressing last year and has since won gold at a national level. He has been actively competing in BJJ and has won multiple medals at an international level too.
In the Youth B 62 kg category, Bradley Legge will compete in IMMAF for the first time, following an abundance of international BJJ and wrestling accolades. In the Youth A lightweight division, Morgan Clements will be the second member of his family to compete on the IMMAF stage this year, after his brother Cameron competed at senior level in January.
2017 world silver medalist Danni McCormack is the team’s head coach and detailed the strides made at the youth level in the space of a year.
“This year we have made huge leaps and bounds compared to last year. Last year was all thrown together a bit because of covid, whereas this year we’ve put in a massive amount of time and hours into the kids. We did three squad sessions before the National Championships, then we did the national championships, and then we started the actual training itself for the worlds.
“I think we did eight sessions for the Worlds. We have put a huge amount of work into them all, and you really see the difference in this year’s team compared to last year. Everyone is friends. They are all a team, they are all getting better together, and we work together as a team. We treat everyone the same no matter what gym they are from.”
She added how proud the coaching team are of the squad heading and believes that the time dedicated to bringing through the next generation of athletes will result in medals.
“Myself, Alan and Kieran have put a huge amount of work into them, and we are really proud of how far they have all come. So, we are very excited for this year to see if all that time, that team vibe and the effort that has gone into them will translate into medals. Hopefully, it will.”
A full list of athletes set to represent Ireland at the 2022 IMMAF Youth World Championships can be found here. The tournament will be streamed live on IMMAF.tv from August 17-20. For all information regarding the brackets and schedule, visit My Next Match.
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