Ayla, David, Nial and Sean, are teens, from Cork, Dublin and Meath, who represented Ireland in karate at the Youth Olympics qualifiers in Umag, Croatia on 28th and 29th July. This last leg of qualifiers has seen the best young athletes from around the world attempt to reach Buenos Aires where karate will feature for the first time as an Olympic sport.
Karate has become an Olympic sport in August of 2016, while the National Governing Body for karate, Karate Ireland O.N.A.K.A.I. received its membership with the Olympic Council of Ireland only last week, on the 21st June 2018.
The 4 have featured on the European and World Karate Federation competition circuit over the past 2 years, with Sean McCarthy most notably winning the first Irish Silver in European Karate Championships in Sochi In February this year.
Ayla O’Sullivan was the only female hopeful after Shauna O’Rourke had to withdraw due to an injury. She and Sean train in Cork whilst Niall Carolan trains in Navan and David Crilly in Dublin. All are members of the National Youth kumite squad lead by highly skilled and experienced John Connolly. The four have fought with exceptional skill and knowledge.
On the 1st day Ayla lead against Mexico by 2 points unfortunately losing in the last seconds, David fought against a Ukrainian competitor who won by a single kick carrying 3 points. Niall won 1st round only to have to withdraw due to injury. Sean won 1st round 4:2 against Venezuelan athlete but narrowly lost in the last few second of the 2nd round. Saturday presented the 2nd opportunity for young Olympic hopefuls to qualify after the top 2 competitors in each weight category from the 1st day qualified. Our athletes were amongst them. Ayla succumbed to a much stronger British athlete in the 1st round. David won his 1st round comfortably with 3:1 against Peru but lost out on proceeding further only on referee decision after a 0:0 score against New Zealand. Sean similarly won 1st round by 3:1 against a New Zealand competitor but lost in the last seconds by a single point against a competitor from Belarus.
The NGB has represented karate in Ireland for the past 40 years and currently has over 70 member clubs. Karate has grown in popularity over the years and in particular after becoming accepted as an Olympic sport. Athletes compete in kata, prescribed form and kumite, fighting although the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics, which are due to be held this October will feature kumite competitors only. Both karate disciplines will be represented in Tokyo in 2020. Our senior athletes will be seeking to qualify at open qualifying event in 2019.