The WAKO Junior European Championships were held from August 23rd to September 1st in Gyor, Hungary. Red Star had five members on the national team. The Championships was a huge success, not only for team Ireland who ranked 5th on the medal table (out of 39 countries) but for the Red Star team who managed to scoop two European gold medals, a silver medal and a bronze medal.
Robyn McDonnell was crowned the European Champion in both Light Contact and Kick Light categories which was a phenomenal achievement for the 17 year old. Robyn battled her way through both categories taking out the best in Europe to take the titles. Dayna Walsh was also in outstanding form as she won silver in the -55kg Light Contact division which was stacked with current and former world and European champions. Dayna drew the toughest draw and after taking out the Hungarian in the first round the current world champion from Croatia was waiting for her in the next round. Dayna had been beaten previously by the Croatian (Dublin 2016) but this time it was the Pocket Rocket’s turn. Dayna was too strong for the champ and after falling down under pressure too many times, the Croatian was disqualified. Next in line for Dayna was the Greek world Kick Light Champion, again Dayna proved too strong for her with her coach retiring his athlete at the start of the third round. Dayna went on to face the current European Champion from Russia in the final. The final was a beautiful display of Light Contact Kickboxing with both athletes looking sharp. It was the Russian who took the win this time but Dayna was very happy with her best ever result at this level making the -55 final and coming away with a well deserved silver medal.
Hannah McLoughlin, Weronika Kukula and Nazreen Flannery were all unlucky in their respective categories especially Nazreen who had to bow out early due to a dislocated shoulder injury. None the less the Cabra girl took a bronze medal home after getting a bye into the semi final.
Red Star coach Jon Mackey was very pleased with the results. Robyn McDonnell is now his 4th athlete that has won major WAKO international tournaments proving that his understanding and ability to coach international Light Contact Kickboxing is second to none.
“I’m very happy with our results this year. Last year we had a tough world championships, the standard was very tough so this year we set about designing a strength and conditioning programme for the girls. The result of this was faster, stronger and fitter athletes. The proof was in the amount of technical knockouts we achieved. I’m chuffed for the girls, in particular Dayna who drew a stinker of draw! World Champions were waiting for at each round but she took it to them and put her stamp on the international stage. She is an amazing young woman.”