Galway Karate Club sweeps the boards at World Championships

West Karate Club and West Wheelchair Karate Club celebrate their massive medal haul at the World Championships with a celebration night in the Menlo Park Hotel recently. Also in attendance was Deputy Mayor Mike Cubbard. Photo: Stan Shields.
West Karate Club and West Wheelchair Karate Club celebrate their massive medal haul at the World Championships with a celebration night in the Menlo Park Hotel recently. Also in attendance was Deputy Mayor Mike Cubbard. Photo: Stan Shields.

Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon

West Karate Club – and, indeed, its sister club, West Wheelchair Karate – is on a high at the moment and who could blame them having taken home 67 medals, including 28 gold, from the 2017 IJKA World Open Shotokan Karate Championships in Cork recently.

West Karate Club Chairperson Brendan O’Flaherty says 2017 has already become “a year you could only dream about” and while he may file their latest successes under the heading of ‘good luck’, it is a modest assessment of an effort that was backboned by six months of hard training.

“We started training for the Worlds last January and we were training maybe two to four days a week. The last few months we are up to five days a week,” begins O’Flaherty, who founded the club in 2009. “Every month, there was a competition, so we also took in one of those every month.

“Then, at the Worlds, everything just seemed to fall into place for us. We could never have imagined we were going to do what we did. We said if we won a few medals, we would be doing alright. However, every one of our students just seemed to click on the day.”

There is no hiding the chief instructor’s levels of excitement. Then again, it’s understandable, given he has invested body and soul into West Karate Club and his passion for it and for the sport – he has been practising karate for over 30 years – is unbridled.

It is only matched, perhaps, by his enthusiasm for those he coaches and when he talks about his students – some of whom he name drops – he does so with such reverence and respect. It underlines that the culture in West Karate is strong and, when you have that, anything is possible.

“You were looking at this (all unfolding) and asking ‘is this really happening?’. That said, we trained so hard for it that, when it was over, everyone was so tired. They were drained and you could understand why. Since last January, right through, we had trained with no break at all.”

In total, 27 competitors travelled down from West Karate Club with another six competing on behalf of West Wheelchair Karate Club. O’Flaherty pays tribute to the wheelchair sextet who competed on the Sunday, adding “they were absolutely brilliant”.

For O’Flaherty and West Karate Club, however, this was all about opportunity. In the past, when they journeyed to far-flung places like Bulgaria and Turkey for the World Championships, they did so in small numbers.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.