The 2023 IMMAA National Championships are in the books following three days of non-stop action in SBG HQ, Dublin, where over 100 athletes registered across the youth, junior and senior competitions.
This year’s championships welcomed the introduction of three different categories (Yellow, Green & Blue+) for the junior and senior divisions. This ensured athletes competed against opponents with similar experience and skill levels.
Some familiar faces from IMMAF competitions added national gold to their list of accolades, including Kerry Ann Vernon and Jake Ngai, who both became national champions for a second consecutive year.
Vernon is renowned for putting on an entertaining contest, and this time was no different as she went toe to toe with Eimear Darcy for three rounds. Ngai entered the competition just over a month after his stellar run at the 2022 World Championships, where he took silver in the junior bantamweight division. Two wins in as many days at the national championships saw him reach six amateur bouts in less than three months.
In the welterweight division, Conor McCarthy scored one of the best finishes of the competition. A clean head kick followed by ground and pound saw McCarthy take gold.
The championships also marked the return of three-time IMMAF medalist Trevor Makengo. Following two years out, Makengo made a statement by outpointing Padraig Kelleher to become the first-ever national heavyweight gold medalist.
In the youth ranks, twenty-one national champions were crowned, with many of the 2022 national team featuring.
Following the event, youth team head coach and Invicta FC strawweight champion Danni McCormack gave her thoughts on the youth competition ahead of team selection next month:
“Yeah, I’m super impressed with the youths. We had more youth entries than junior and senior entries in these national championships, so that’s a huge achievement. When you think about the squad sessions and having more than 80 kids in every squad, I wasn’t surprised that we got so many entries in the competition.
“It was a high-level competition. And there were many kids that won’t get an opportunity to go to the world this year that are really big prospects for the future as well. So yeah, I’m just super impressed with the talent constantly developing these kids, and their grappling, especially, is at a very high level because the rule set means no headshots, so they really get to develop this. I’m so excited about Abu Dhabi at the start of August, and I’m excited to select the team officially on the 23rd of April and start our team training.”