Friday, January 29, 2016

February is for fighting in Ireland



Muay Thai 

It never rains but it pours as we say in Ireland and it looks like next month is going to be a great one for fight-fans here. 

MuayThai is getting another extravaganza in Cork under the Siam Warriors banner. Only one women's fight confirmed so far between Yvonne Calnan and Liz Curran at 60Kgs in the C-class division but we live in hope. 

Hopefully I can track one or both of these fighters down for a chat here before the show on February 20th. Full details on the Siam Warriors Facebook page

Doing the corner in style PIC via Siam Warriors Facebook


Women's Boxing

Also on that night a real treat down in Kerry Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor takes on American champion and former Olympian Queen Underwood.  

Full details of tickets for that quality international bout here on Tralee Today

Incredibly Katie is fighting Swedish boxer Jelena Jelic the night before her American bout! Says a lot about how hard it is to get fights organised for women that when they come along like that, you just have to go for it. That fight is in Kanturk, Co Cork.


And if all that isn't enough, the Kickboxing Ireland Senior All-Ireland championships are taking place Valentine's weekend. Full details here of the venue in Tallaght here.  

Caradh O' Donovan who blogs for is competing there having spent some time thinking about retirment, looks like she's dismissed that for now.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Calm inside the MMA storm

Wordless Wednesday: pics via Invicta Fighting Championships Facebook from January 16th event.

Alida Gray vs Angela Hill Invicta womens mma wmma
Pre-fight for Angela Hill fighting Alida Gray

Colleen Schneider Invicta womens mma wmma raquel paaluhi
Raquel Pa'aluhi vs Colleen Schneider
Invicta womens mma wmma Mizuki Inoue
after the fight:  Mizuki Inoue who fought
Lacey Schuckman

Cris Cyborg Invicta womens mma wmma Darina Ibragimova
Cris Cyborg vs Daria Ibragimova

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

Monday, January 25, 2016

Triathlon Girls - film celebrating the women's triathlon

women's triathlon swimming biking running
Pics via Triathlon Girls Facebook page for documentary of that name

Triathlons were once only for elite athletes, people with lots of professional support, time and money. It still costs a lot to take part in high-level races but at entry-level the sport has opened up to everyone – even women.  (to be read in a joking tone!)

Nigel Christian got in touch with me about a documentary being made in England on the women’s tri scene.

From Kent in England and a mountain-biker himself, he said: “The women I have filmed so far have inspired me and I also hope others. This sport covers a wide age group and all shapes and sizes. This is not about being at the highest level. This is about belief and desire.”

I had a look and from the opening shot I was hooked. The first line of dialogue is a woman saying: “I do believe anyone can do it if they have the determination.”

Normal women doing sport, having fun – what more could you ask for? 

They started filming at the end of last season (in Ireland and the UK open water tri-season is roughly late April to September with indoor events going a bit longer) and depending on funding will film through the 2016 season.

So they need to promote the film, and show potential sponsors that people would watch it! This is where you come in with the power of social media ...

Nigel said: “The plan for the finished piece is TV, and a screening. This is a great subject as it covers all age groups and levels. Got to love it.

“We have put a short teaser together as we are chasing funding to complete the film this upcoming season of tri events. The aim of the film is to show that any girl can get involved in a sport.”

This is the teaser here below, share away if you like it. Maybe you’ll be inspired to make a film about your own tri-adventures?

You can contact Nigel through the film’s Facebook community page: Triathlon Girls

Find out about Triathlons in Ireland at:  Triathlon Ireland

Other Irish adventure races at:   Quest Adventure Series

TRi GIRLS from nigel christian on Vimeo.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Being a pro boxer is good for your mental health says Lynn Harvey

Lynn Harvey after her pro-debut with coach Daniel O'Sullivan

It’s a rare person who turns down a chance to join their national boxing team but that’s what one Irish boxer did when she decided to turn pro last year.

Amateur champion Lynn Harvey says she felt like a pro-fighter and with one win already under her belt she’s well on the way. This makes her only Ireland’s third pro female fighter with WBC champion Christina McMahon the only other active boxer. **

But unlike Christina who came to boxing via a successful kickboxing career, Lynn was only boxing for three years before taking her amateur title in 2014. Full of energy even just talking about boxing, as she is on her Twitter account she said:

“There’s so much to learn, things that if you don’t box you wouldn’t even think of. Every tiny detail that goes into throwing a punch is important. You’re never going to stop learning. It’s brilliant, it’s brilliant.”

But wasn’t she tempted to stay amateur even just one more year? She was offered a place on the Irish team, but declined.

“No, truthfully I would never have been a good enough amateur to get to that level. I was always more pro-style. I was never in-out and technical. It’s just a different style. I don’t mind saying that. I mean best in Ireland that’s fine and I might have gone to the Europeans if I had really, really worked at it but not the Olympics,” Lynn said.

“It doesn’t even appeal to me, it never did. I like the way in pro-style you box for yourself, it’s on your own shoulders. The place where I’m training is like a family but we’re all individuals.”


Lynn in her champion amateur days

She went onto talk about the style difference between pro and amateur, joking: “I know the money is shit”.

 “It was easy for me to adapt, I was a pro-style fighter even as an amateur. I was never in and out. The main change is slowing down the pace. In amateur it’s only four rounds, and now I’m working up to ten rounds.

“The main thing is keeping relaxed, doing everything much more calmly, more slowly. You’re picking your shots, taking your time. It’s a more laid-back style, so it forces me to wind-down, not to get so pumped up.”

She’s critical of applying “amateur” to athletes like Katie Taylor, saying the word has negative connotations. “They’re just amazing, so many amateur boxers would dance around pros. The tag is a bit unfair,” she says.

Her debut ended in a dramatic one round victory over Bulgarian Ivana Yaneva (see below) but she wasn’t impressed.

“I would have like to go a bit longer in the ring, there was more stuff I can do. But the main thing was I wanted to win and stop her, so I did. Hopefully the next time it will last longer. I would rise to the opponents,

I’d step it up in relation to whoever I’m in with. Being in with someone good makes me better,” she said.



Lynn Harvey with her Celtic Warrior gym family via Lynn Harvey Twitter

For outsiders a super- healthy lifestyle can seem constraining, but not for Lynn: 
“I’m doing it all for boxing but the knock-on effect is better. I used to suffer with depression and anxiety, I still do get bouts and it drains your energy. You can barely lift your arms, but ‘cause I love boxing, I do get out to the gym. 

And it is better now, because I hardly drink, I eat better, it’s all helping, you know,” she says.
Her main focus is on training with coach Daniel O’ Sullivan at Celtic Warrior Gym. Under the close eye of her manager Paschal Collins, Lynn has big plans for the future.

But she also teaches women's classes four times weekly. Lynn said: ‘I’m very pro-women, it’s all women my classes. Even if I wasn’t like that, I find that a lot of men don’t want to be shouted at by a 5ft1 blonde female. Even with all my titles, that might make it worse, some men are able for it but …”

And while those women aren’t planning on fighting anytime soon, Lynn reckons if she succeeds and Christina continues to do well Ireland could see a few more pro-boxers.

“I think that a couple of girls could turn over, it depends on how appealing I make it. If I make it look exciting, if I get a good run it is going to tempt other girls. I don’t feel any pressure, and to be honest there only being two of us in Ireland suits me perfectly at the moment – it’s hard to get slots for women so it suits me for now,” she says, laughing.

Oh, and she’s mother to an 8-year old boy who happens to be a great running talent. Like I said, energy, energy, energy. 


Lynn Harvey’s pro-boxing debut October 2015 on YouTube thanks to

Lynn sparring with her coach Sean Carton back in 2014

More info about Celtic Warriors boxing gym, Dublin

** Ireland’s first female pro-fighter was Deirdre Gogarty, now a coach in America Listen to my radio documentary on Deirdre.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Marabou storks in Uganda

Wordless Wednesday  - I spotted these storks out running in Kampala a few years ago, had to go back with my camera.

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

What do you think about this new way to promote women's sport?

Left - Laddyball camapign RIGHT: the big reveal **
I wasn’t going to post about the PR campaign which burst onto Irish social media and sports last week, cause I just feel  - meh.

But the more I think about it, the more baffled I become. So if you missed it:

On Wednesday YouTube adverts, a Twitter account, Facebook and then newspaper adverts launched for a football called ‘Ladyball. It’s pink and the line was: “Girls, now you can kick straight and look great”. And: “Soft-touch for a woman’s grip” and “Eazi-play for a woman’s ability.”

At first I thought this was a promo for betting company Paddy Power (see our Facebook discussion) but as the days went on, I wasn’t sure. The tone of the Twitter account was just a bit nasty. Condescending, and highlighting everything this blog has been fighting against for years.

Lots of little girls love pink sports gear (and big ones too!) but it was the sexualisation, and the patronage that was just so yawn-inducing.

This went on for three days, and to be honest some people did it take too seriously. But reading tweets and talking to people, most saw a PR stunt, and a stunt going rapidly downhill. It’s been picked up by media outside of Ireland, in a mostly incredulous tone.

Finally, on Friday evening the BIG REVEAL.

So the football itself isn’t real, but the campaign is linked to the Ladies Football  - important to note in Ireland this means Gaelic football and the GAA and not soccer as many foreign newspapers incl New York Times mistook – league.

They’ve got a new deep-pocketed sponsor; international supermarket chain LIDL and it seems it was their idea to launch this exciting development with three days of negative campaigning.

Apparently by highlighting sexism and by repeating it, increasing it, adding to it the supermarket wanted to :
“put the spotlight on women in sport in Ireland and raise awareness of the difficulties female sports persons have in getting the same recognition as their male counterparts." Yawn.

My fear now is that any other sponsor of sport will feel they have attack the sport also first. Plus all that crap is online forever. A poll by Dublin Ladies on their Twitter account found:
I’m genuinely open to discussion on this, maybe I’m an idiot and just missing the point? Who is targetting?

I just feel sad, and disappointed, really disappointed that this was the best, the most creative thing they could come up with.They're not the first to sexualise women in sport, but one of the few I've seen do it and try to take the moral high ground too.

Don’t raise a glass to the future of women’s sport just yet, we have a long way to go.

PS - the lady in red is Briege Corkery, captain of the Cork team. Crossed arms? The team is sponsored by rival supermarket Supervalu as noticed on Sport for Business.

This is their explainer;


Friday, January 15, 2016

Amanda English on the growth of women's MMA in Ireland and staying cool in the cage

Pics left and bottom right Cage Warriors 63 PIC via DamadeferroMMA

Ireland is pretty small which can be a great thing. Amanda English is well-known on the Irish MMA scene, but I only got the chance to interview her when I bumped into a mutual friend over Christmas and suddenly the contact exchange was easy. 

Amanda was one of the first female MMA fighters in Ireland, starting training at Kyuzo Gym in 2007. Back then MMA was so off-radar, she directed people to YouTube before they understood where her bruises came from.

She said: ‘I think people thought I was making it up or they thought there was something wrong (at home). 

"When I tried to talk to people, the reaction was ‘what the hell?’ They didn’t appreciate the skill, and that it’s addictive. I find it addictive, and there're great health benefits.’

Amanda starting training just for fitness. The urge to fight developed when her competitive instinct took over as she improved. But her journey to a pro-fight and win on  Cage Warriors 63 involved quite a few frustrations.
Amada English vs Slavka Vitaly Italy/Slovakia Cage Warriors 63 PIC via Awakening Fighters

The 56kgs fighter (125lbs) explained:  

“I was training constantly and looking for fights, but they weren’t around at the time. Now it’s kind of exploding for MMA, and women like Ronda Rousey are flying the flag for women’s MMA. There are an awful lot more female fights on the cards, but at the time I found it difficult to get opponents.

“I fought six or seven times but I actually trained for way more fights than that, between injuries or girls pulling out – and they couldn’t be replaced.”

Unlike Irish fighters Aisling Daly or Catherine Costigan who work in MMA-related areas, Amanda is a forensic scientist, so training has to fit around regular working hours:
  • Eight weeks fight-training
  • Six days a week
  • Training once a day at least, preferably twice
  • Night-time training being BJJ, MMA or Boxing;  sparring and technique in each
  • Lunch-times mean running
  • Early mornings for strength and conditioning sessions at the gym

Amanda wins against Adrianna Gibadulinova (Poland) amateur fight PIC via Kyuzo Gym

With her years of experience, Amanda’s become a mentor to the growing number of women at her gym. A brown belt in BJJ (one of the few women in Ireland at this level) she even tutored TV presenter Vogue Williams on the subtleties of BJJ for her programme “Wild Girls”  

She said: ‘I would have been the only woman at Kyuzo for a long while. Now we have a great number of girls coming through, more so on the BJJ side but some doing MMA as well. It’s definitely become a lot more popular, our gym has a nice culture.

“It’s very friendly, open to all new members whether they are male or female.”
And even after all she’s achieved so far, Amanda can still recall the emotions from her very first fight:
“It is very different from training, no matter how hard you train I think there is a mental aspect to fighting. You realise when you get in, and you’re standing there; you do question ‘Oh God, have I got the bottle for this?’ and it’s a matter of maintaining a little bit of cool and saying Yes, I have.”


You can hear Amanda talk about her pro debut on SevereMMA 

Contact Kyuzo Gym here.  

UPDATE: 2nd part of this interview on Jiu Jitsu and social media 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sports bloggers to keep your sport in motion

Des Conkle - daughter and inspiration for Ti Conkle

Continuing the theme of getting ready for the new year, these women in sport bloggers will keep your training in motion:

Food for the Fast Lane Derval O’ Rourke
Eat yourself faster, and stronger with recipes from world indoor champ and Olympic hurdler Derval O’ Rourke. She eats bread, rice and pasta – yay for normal! There’s even chocolate treats for those laxy or injured days.

One of the original women’s mma #wmma websites Marq has fight reports, news of match-ups and podcast interviews. And some useful A-Z Twitter lists of female fighters across a few sports

Lunges and Lyrca
Aimed at women who do a lot of sports, this interview Emma and Charlotte did with Paula Radcliffe on marathon tips is a great read.

Women’s Weightlifting Ireland
Thinking of taking up weightlifting or just adding weights to your routine? Check in with these women for expert tips
Funny title but this website has solid practical tips for making you better – like this one with three drills for faster biking.

Girl boxing 
Training at the world-famous Gleason gym in New York, Malissa has written a history of women’s boxing, great book if you have time for that and her blog has videos and interview of every female boxer you’ve heard of – and some you haven’t! 

Where do you go online for inspiration?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Can you tweak your training to make it better this year?

Messing around at the Science Gallery - me behind the screens!

At this time of year everyone wants to be an Olympian or World Champion and that is really a great thing. So how do we get from competing in small tournaments (no matter the sport) to taking home that gold medal? 

One of the smallest changes is just training more, or training smarter. For me that means getting up a bit earlier now for more plyometrics, and proper stretching after running. This is the plan anyhow, reality will probably be scuppered by the rain based on the deluge in Dublin so far. 

It probably doesn't sound like a huge change but I've found those tiny tweaks give better long-term results than anything else. I go to a Pilates class every week, so last year I started adding some omoves to my daily stretches. Now I can look back and feel how differently things are working.  I still can't put my feet behind my head or anything super-flexible though ...

And I've accepted I've lost some of my MuayThai skills just because I don't train as often or as hard as I used to. There was a long break (excuse the pun) after some nasty injuries and I made a big effort last year to listen to other trainers and go back to basics with my own stuff.

I didn't need a personal trainer or expensive gadgets. I just needed to listen to the people around me who spotted my flaws.  

A big part of that was adjusting a 'get it now' attitude. So I was delighted to see one of my favourite magazines Women's Health making this announcement: No more Bikini Body stories.

Now we don't do sport to have a bikini body but if we' re honest that little voice is often at the back of our heads - that voice expecting instant muscle or speed improvements.

The editor wrote: "We’d rather focus on the greater benefits of getting a strong-as-hell core: running, surfing, dancing, climbing, being able to carry a 2-year-old up and down the stairs 10 times a day."

All those things take time. There's no reason why anyone reading this today couldn't come back next January with a list of medals, titles, faster times, more fights. 


Take some time, think about one small change which you can make to your sports training and DO IT ...

Let me know what it is? All the magazines say there's something about telling other people that makes us more likely to stick to the plans so they must be right! 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: evolution of a Bikram Yoga studio

Wordless Wednesday - evolution of a studio: Bikram Yoga Cork with Kate McNamara. 

PIC via Bikram Yoga Cork

PIC via Bikram Yoga Cork

 (I took the top two pics in 2011, found them this week and had to post the comparison!)

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

Monday, January 4, 2016

Diana Nyad's book on swimming, jelly-fish and surviving with a smile

PIC via Diana Nyad Facebook

One of the first women I wrote about when starting this blog was American swimmer Diana Nyad. If you don’t know her, she’s the lady who decided at 60 years of age to swim the 166km (103mi) from Cuba to Florida. As you do. 

She’s written an inspiring book called “Find a Way, one untamed and courageous life”. And I’m working my way through it at the moment, looking for bright thoughts to combat the January blues. 

It opens as Diana was about to jump in for her 3rd attempt at this distance. She’d first tried aged 28 in 1978, then an aborted attempt in 2011 before this painful-to-read try in September 2011. 

She finally completes her mission on her fifth, yes fifth, attempt in 2013. 

Reading the chapters on the 2011 swims numbers leap out at me: 

  • Zero awareness of her surroundings due to the tight cap, and focus on breathing vs strokes
  • Two box jelly-fish swarms in the first 2 nights  - the 2nd after 26 hours of swimming
  • Two shots of epinephrine needed for the medic who got stung while in the water treating Diana
  • 3rd attempt ended after swimming 131 km (81.7mi) over 44 hours and 30 minutes
  • Four to 11 minutes of treading water on food/hydration breaks
  • Six divers to protect Diana from sharks (hopefully!)
  • Nine years old when she ‘discovered’ Cuba as refugees flooded her Florida hometown after the Cuban Revolution
  • 60 strokes per minnute for her younger self, a mere 52 - 54 now 
  • 90-minutes intervals for food/hydration breaks 
PIC via Diana Nyad Facebook

Then in a moving look back at her childhood Diana reveals the abusive relationship her father created with her, and her siblings. Speaking from the calm of her seventh decade, she forgives her father. 

Why? Because of the indomitable champion’s spirit he gave her in his good moments. It’s not a chapter you expect in a sports-book but a brave and open look at what’s made her who she is; good, bad and indifferent. 

More to come from Diana Nyad's "Find a Way" when something else strikes me as I read along. 

Follow Diana Nyad on Twitter

Or if you'd like to hear Diana speak about those jelly-fish, where else but a Ted-talk?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Here's to a healthy and sports filled 2016

Another year gone, another chance now to grab hold of your sports ambitions and make them happen! 

Remember it doesn't matter if you slipped off the health-train over the holidays, all that matters is that you get back on it again next week. So many awful things happening around the world, and probably just up the road from wherever you are reading this but we can lose ourselves in sport and find a way to make that smile happen. 

 (Yes, I know, very Pollyanna but if you can't be optimistic at the start of a New Year when can you be?) 

Thank you so much for all the support during the year; for reading this blog, for telling me about the sports women you admire, for talking to me about your sports. Here's to another exciting year for women in sport!