UCD played host to the annual Judo Intervarsities for the first time since 1999 the Saturday before last, with entrants from thirteen institutions around Ireland. The weigh-in for the event was held on Friday night, and the competition began at 10am the following morning, in Sports Centre.
While the Japanese terminology of judo can be off-putting, its drama can be appreciated by all, and the Sports Centre was busy with spectators and competitors on Saturday. 130 judo players, or judoka, took part in the tournament, with a wide variety of categories according to weight and belt. The largest number of entrants came from UCC, while UCD Judo was second with 22 participants, an impressive number considering the club’s relative youth; and the home club eventually placed second in the medal table.
Proceedings began with the team events, as the UCD A men’s team faced NUIG A, and the UCD B fought UCC A. Each team is made up of five judoka, and while UCD ‘A’ fought well, they were edged out, 3-2. UCD B meanwhile lost to the eventual gold medalists, but with good judo on display. In the women’s team event, the home competitors had more success, with UCD A and B winning silver and bronze respectively.
The most dramatic of the team events proved to be the mixed competition. The UCD team defeated UCC in a tense semi-final, with impressive performances on both sides, eventually pulling through 3-2. The result turned on a close match between Bran Lee from UCD and Tim Kelly of UCC, with the former eventually bringing down his opponent with a powerful uchi mata. The silver medal was guaranteed, but in the final the considerable skill and experience of the DCU team was displayed as they took the gold.
With the team events completed, the individual competitions began, first with the weight divisions, from -60kg to 100kg for the men, and – 48kg to +78kg for the women. Followed by the belt divisions, from Novice to Upper Kyu. A few UCD competitors were injured from the team events and forced to withdraw. Still, there were several successes. In the men’s -66kg, Sean Duffy took silver, while UCD captain Eddie McLoughlin won gold in the -73kg category, with an outstanding display of competition judo. Conor O’Donnell took bronze in the Middle Kyu. There was success also in the Novice category, for judoka with only a few months experience, as William Ikenna-Nwosu and Tiarnach O’Riada took silver and bronze, respectively.
The UCD women, meanwhile, were very successful, winning three gold, two silver and four bronze overall. Cliona O’Brien took gold in the Novice -63kg event, while also securing bronze in the main -63kg competition. Ashley Mann won gold in the -78kg event, while Anna Espegard took advantage of a favourable draw to come first in the Lower Kyu event, also winning silver in the -63kg category. Sarah Plumenail took silver, demonstrating her skill and experience in the -57kg competition. Jenny McCarthy won bronze in both Middle Kyu and -70kg events, while Aisling McGuire took bronze in the -52kg division.
Overall, it was a strong showing from the UCD Judo Club, especially given its size in relation to larger clubs such as UCC Judo, and considering its members were fully occupied with the organisation of the event. Equipment for the tournament, including a large number of mats – known as tatami in Japanese – were transported from the headquarters of the Irish Judo Association on Friday evening, with club members at work from 8am the following morning to prepare the hall. The competition proceeded with success overall, however the International Judo Federation’s recent introduction of new rules changed the dynamic of many fights, so that proceedings ran on somewhat longer than anticipated.
Speaking at the awards dinner in the Spencer Hotel, vice-captain Josh Mathews noted how the final results reflected the diverse nature of the UCD club, with competitors of many backgrounds, fighting at all levels of experience. He also remarked on the considerable achievements of the club, considering its youth, having only been re-established in 2013. The efforts of Captain Eddie McLoughlin in organising such a successful intervarsities were applauded by all, and he was awarded the Charlie Hegarty Spirit of Judo Award for Best Judoka by the tournament referees, along with a commemorative judo gi by his fellow club members.
Calvin Duffy | Sport Writer & Photographer