Monday, May 25, 2015


I'm taking a week off work this week, and that means staying away from the computers too!

You can get caught up sometimes in reading about sport, learning about nutrition and keeping up with what everyone else is achieving ...

Sometimes it's good to get away and just do sport for myself :) 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Daoprasuk out of retirement, back in the ring

Daoprasuck Petchobas wins again PIC Natasha Sky on FB
Sometimes sport can seem like a young woman's game but we all know really that's just at elite level. Dip down just a little and you'll be surprised who you find out getting their jig on.

A few weeks ago I realised that even at elite level there is no need to call a halt just because the numbers say so. Today's post is dedicated to a fighter I thought long-retired and greying.

Also this weekend I'd like to remind you about the Polish documentary 'Down but Not Out' which I reveiwed here in April. That is now available for download from Vimeo with 50% discount for readers of this blog using the promo code "Niamh"

So what you need to know about the Thai woman in this clip below is Daoprasuk Petchopas was a famous fighter in the late 90s, early 2000s winning all before her. (including beating me into almost into the ground one night)

She took some time off to have a family ie maybe 10 years and rest on her multi-champion laurels.That was that, or so it seemed.

And then I spotted her face on posters flying about online again just a few weeks ago. It's really great now to have so many female fighters posting on blogs, Facebook and Twitter. It's so easy to know what's happening even on other continents.

Watching this clip uploaded by SinbiMuayThai Gym, it's clear she's lost none of her technique or power. Her style is very Thai meaning she was so relaxed for the first few rounds and then explodes in the 3rd and 4th to take a comprehensive points victory.

Hats off to her opponent Monica Brenes from Costa Rica who did her best against simply one of the toughest fighters, male or female to come out of Thailand.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Wakeboarding

Wordless Wednesday - watching Aisling Deegan and other wakeboarders in Dublin
(phone camera, sorry for low quality!)

 More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.     And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, May 18, 2015

Big waves and bigger hearts

Windsurfer Katie McAnena in Red Bulletin

Most people who see huge waves stand back in awe of Mother Nature, but a tiny number of people see them as a challenge. 

Windsurfer Katie McAnena is one of them and one of the few women I know of who gets in there among the largest, scariest waves. Her fame is growing – thanks a wave called Teahupo’o in Tahiti. It’s a giant wave, even ‘an avalanche’ as she’s described it above but also just a challenging day at the office for McAnena.

I’m reading ‘Cliffs of Insanity’ at the moment by sports journo Keith Duggan. It’s a book on male big-wave surfers in Ireland, but for once I can’t complain – the author can only write what he sees. And this need to conquer the very largest waves is for now mainly a male pursuit. 

But no less inspiring for that. The single-minded or even bloody-minded dedication on display is what I’m loving the most. 

There are men who started surfing while living in Dublin – ie the no-big-waves side of Ireland but hitched or bussed their way across the island every weekend to get in the water. 

Now I know Ireland isn’t the biggest island around but trust me when you’ve twisted and turned through the windy lanes of the west for hours, it seems a lot bigger. 

The side of my car is scraped to all hell from bushes, trees and even a hidden gate on one scary occasion  - the closer to the sea, the narrower the lanes.

Not to mention waves which don’t even have access roads – slithering their way across icy rocks, and climbing down cliffs into the raging waters. 

I don’t surf myself though I love the sea – it’s these guys ability to throw off what the world expects just to have those brief moments on the water keeping me reading. 


Friday, May 15, 2015

#Wrugby world cup for Ireland
IRFU Women's Rugby Ambassador Fiona Coghlan(l) celebrates PIC via UTV Ireland
Great news for women’s rugby in Ireland as Dublin and Belfast are picked as venues for the 2017 World Cup.

Who would have thought this could happen just a few years ago when #wrugby (as it’s known on social media) was very much the Cinderella of the sport? I sound like a hoary old-timer but when you think of watching international matches with a handful of other people in pouring rain… and now this.

The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) also said this week international home games will be played in Dublin’s Donnybrook pitch instead of Ashbourne in Co Meath. The officials in Ashbourne deserve a huge round of applause for putting on international games at their club, for taking on that responsibility.

But you lose a certain sense of occasion travelling down a wee, dark road to a small club where a burger is the height of the entertainment. It’s just not international-level. And in February when the lights went out against France in the Six Nations even the IRFU realised this was no longer sustainable.

    Listen back to a short radio package I made at the 2012 Ireland Vs Italy match in Ashbourne.

And think back to 2013 when the Women’s Six Nations was under threat of rationalisation as they say, right down to a 3-country competition. Former Irish captain Rosie Foley told me at the time: ‘‘I’d be sad to see it ending, I love it the way it is at the minute. It has been so good for Irish rugby; there has been a huge improvement. My own opinion is that it’s fine now, you have to play against better opponents. Italy are where we were five years ago and they need good opponents, they’re improving.”

Thankfully that didn’t happen. And with Sevens rugby in for Rio2016, women’s rugby is very much on the up.

A shout-out needed here to Ali Donnelly founder of the #wrugby site Scrum Queens, and to French site Sportiva-Infos. Without the publicity and the sense of community those sites and others create women might not be taking up rugby in numbers high enough to force all this attention.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Sunset over Dublin

Wordless Wednesday - Evening runs, best way to wind down if you can squeeze one in.

 More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here.     And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, May 11, 2015

Women in sports blogs

PIC via WriteforChai

Time again for a round-up of some great blogs and websites promoting women in sport. It's been a while since I last did this, and I've met quite a few wonderful bloggers through joining Twitter (see right if you want to follow me and them).

Sarah and I bonded over my post on Pink Women's Sports Clothes. Her blog is packed full of running inspiration and tips she's picked up on her own journey.

She says: "Girls Can Run Fast is my digital home to share my running journey. I'm interested in pushing myself hard and achieving my athletic goals, and I guess what I'm trying to say is that girls can run fast (or strong, or long...or whatever else it may be that we're trying to do).

"We can sweat and keep pushing for reasons that go well beyond trying to look good (though nothing looks better than hard work, especially when it's running down your face). We can be serious athletes, no matter where we are currently in our own journey."

One of the many great women in MuayThai blogs popping up around the web. English fighter Emma Thomas lives and fights in Thailand but her blog is far more than just her journey. One of my favourite posts is a comprehensive list of films and documentaries linked to the sport.

She says: "I originally started writing about my experiences here just for myself, but I am seeing a constantly increasing interest in what I’m doing from other women, which made me realise that it’s worth sharing. As a single female expat who is living, working, training and fighting in Thailand, I’d like to provide some insight for other women who are looking to do the same, and show that you don’t need to be an experienced or talented fighter to be doing what I’m doing.

"If you have the drive and the passion, that’s enough."

Caradh O' Donovan is another blogger I've met through Twitter. She is the Paratriathlon Manager at Triathlon Ireland, but also kickboxes as her own passion. A recent post she wrote on training at this high level while coping with Crohn's Disease really moved me.

She says:  "I work with Triathlon Ireland developing the sport of Paratriathlon throughout the country so each day brings its different demands.

"As much as it’s very tough having to work full-time to fund representing my country, I’m well aware I’m one of the lucky few that gets to continue their passion for sport with their work."

If you know any other great blogs or website about women in sport leave a comment below and I will track them down for my next blogging round-up.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Women and the Tour de France

Helen Russell, Melissa Brand prepare for the Tour de France, charity

The Tour de France is recognised as one of the toughest endurance events you can put your body through. This summer a group of cyclists including two women are taking it on as a charity endeavour, cycling the route 'One Day Ahead' of the main pack. 

Helen Russell and Melissa Brand are the only women in a British charity group planning on the full 3,300kms. And as well as raising funds for leukaemia they're flying the flag for one day having a women's Tour. There is still time to join them with places available through this site: Before The Tour.

It's always surprising to people in this day of women competing everywhere at the highest levels that cycling is still so closed out. When British road-cyclist Nicole Cooke retired, her leaving statement slammed the authorities for their lack of support.

Russell got involved with Geoff Thomas' efforts partly because sadly her mother passed from cancer, but also to show that women can race the full Tour. 
"I’ve attended the Tour three or four times with my dad, John, but to think I’ll now be attempting to cycle the route one day before the pros, riding the exact same roads they will, it will be such an incredible experience.

"Another big motivation for me was learning there were no female riders on board. I felt I had to step up to the mark. I am, and always have been, a big advocate of women’s rights in sport and I didn’t want the ride to go ahead without a female presence, " Russell said. 

Her team-mate Brand has done three Ironman comps so she's not exactly a novice at tough sports. She said: "Similarly to Helen, when I heard there was no female rider on the team, I became extremely motivated to sign up. Le Tour is an amazing opportunity to take on what most people say is the toughest endurance event in the world of sport.

"With the focus on raising money for the lifesaving work of Cure Leukaemia, it’s something I wanted to achieve and support.  It’s also really important for me to show that women can ride hard and are capable of cycling long distances."

You can follow Russell on Twitter (where she contacted me first) at:  @helengoth

More details about their plans are online at the Cure Leukaemia website UK. They are aiming to raise at least one million pounds so every little will help them. 

And from a women in sport viewpoint, it would be huge to see both women complete the course. I'd like to see the reaction from course organisers who have repeately failed to pull a full tour out of their hat. This year once again women will race for one day coming in before the end of the men's race. 

We know from the London Olympics and the women's football world cup that when the talent is there, the crowds will come. Let's see what this does for women's cycling.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Moomins in the park

Wordless Wednesday - not strictly sport this week but inspired by a walk in the woods with a friend's children. Moomintroll visits the Park.

More Wordless Wednesday bloggers here. And here on Image-in-ing

Monday, May 4, 2015

Boxing World Champion: Christina McMahon

McMahon celebrates in Zambia PIC via Twitter Kevin Byrne
Ireland has a new World Champion in boxing - Christina McMahon defeated Catherine Piri in an exciting fight in Zambia at the weekend.

McMahon is one of those inspiring women who took on kickboxing, amateur boxing and now professional boxing and owned them all.  I first met her in 2010 when I was working on a radio documentary (listen below) called: "Why do we box?" I was probably exploring why I had retired as much as why other people fight but it made for an interesting experience to listen to people like McMahon without having to actually put my own tuppence worth in.

This fight brings her to 7-0 in her professional career. Oh, and she's 40 years of age. Just goes to show that if you keep training, stay focused that you can overcome the fabled 'slowdown' of age. One of the Zambian journalists ringside tweeted: 'Christina “Lightning” McMahon schooled Catherine Phiri. She was way too smart #experience"

PIC VIA WomenBoxing
Now this isn't the straightforward win that it might seem. (sighs about complexity of boxing rules). McMahon is ranked 10th in the bantamweight division by the WBC and Phiri is 2nd. The Irish woman took the 10-round fight at short notice and it was an Interim World Title bout.

This is a title offered when for some serious reason the World Champion cannot fight. It can only be fought between two highly-ranked fighters in that same division. That means McMahon is a World Champion as both titles are valid simultaneously.

The No 1 Ranked  World Champion holder must fight the holder of the Interim belt or forfeit the title.*

I know, I know. And they wonder why people are losing faith in boxing. So, now it's up to the WBC to offer McMahon a chance to fight the No 1 ranked boxer Mexican Yazmin Rivas. They did give out the Interim WC belt though so I'm guessing McMahon will take that and the title with a huge grin. 

So in this radio documentary you hear from McMahon, but also Australian MuayThai fighter Kelly Simon (now Burke, and retired) as well as European champion Willie 'Big Bang' Casey. among others. I asked them why they fight, and what is that draws them into such tough sports ?

*Updated May 7th to clarify what an Interim title is.