After a trip to the London Open where five of the Royal Grappling Academy team – Roger Dardis, Paul Fox, Darren Lewins, Conor Murphy and Luke Daly – took to the mats, the Dublin 15 club brought home a fantastic haul of six medals including gold for head coaches Dardis and Fox.
Claiming the first IBJJF medals of his competitive career over the October weekend, Fox commented on the tournament in the English capital.
“It’s great,” he said on claiming gold and silver over the two days. “There was such a great wave of Irish support over there, I think we had 50 competitors there in total. We won gold in most of the lighter weight divisions at blue and purple belt both in the Adult and Masters 1 divisions.
“The fact that there were two Irish guys in a lot of the finals is a massive testament to the national scene over here. Joey Breslin and Marcus Phelan fought each other in the featherweight final at purple belt and that was awesome.
“Roger Dardis from our club also won his first gold in an adult division at brown belt middleweight. This is a great achievement as the Brown Belt middleweight division in adults is one of the toughest divisions outside of black belt. I managed to win gold in purple belt featherweight division at Masters 1.
“We both went down an age division and still managed to win gold, so we’re very happy with how we got on.”
“It was a really well run tournament – there was a restaurant in the facility too so that was a bit of a novelty. We could get some good food, there was a fantastic atmosphere, the divisions ran on time and everybody was really friendly. The calibre of competitors was quite high so there was a lot of really good matches on show.”
With Lewins claiming double bronze in his brackets and Murphy also taking bronze from the tournament, the RGA founder praised the team and gave a special mention to Daly who suffered an unfortunate loss in his first match.
“Every tournament, whether you win gold or lose in your first match, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes. Even though I managed to win gold there are some little mistakes that I made in that final match that made me think I might have gotten a submission instead of winning on points.
“In the division the day before where I won silver, there was definitely a few things that I did that I wasn’t happy with. As you work your way up the belts a few small mistakes can unravel and seal your fate so you’ve got to keep sharp.
“I was very happy with our two young guys, Conor Murphy and Luke Daly, who went over to compete in their first international competition. They gave a great account of themselves. They got tough draws and went on to lose out to the eventual winners of the respective divisions.
“Luke Daly, a teenager competing in the adult division, caught his first opponent in an armbar but because they rolled into the judges table the match was reset in the middle of the mat. It was unfortunate.
“Both of the guys listened to us throughout their matches and reacted to what we were saying. They were able to make adjustments to change the tide in their favour. I’m very proud of what they achieved. I think they came away with a hunger to do better in the future. The future is bright at the club,” he said.
Fox hopes that more of team travel for international tournaments in the future given the success of London:
“I hope more of the guys will come away with us the next time we travel. The atmosphere was great among the five us. We helped each other out, everyone pulled their own weight and we had a really good time.
“Although five people doesn’t seem like a big number, there were clubs that have been active in this country for ten years that had the same number of competitors as us.”
With well over 50 competitors taking approximately 60 medals at the IBJJF event, Fox insisted that the Irish can be safe in the knowledge that they are getting the best training around.
“Everyone that is training jiu jitsu here in Ireland can hold their head up high. All of the coaches, whether they were at the competition or not, they’re definitely doing the right thing. You see the Irish guys across their playing some beautiful jiu jitsu, putting in fantastic performances and they’ve got that fighting spirit.
“Right down to the white belts. I saw guys that were down on the scoreboards and dug deep. They fought for their wins, there was literally no easy matches there. I think everyone is doing a great job in this country and it’s all home grown.
“There’s no Brazilian guy that flew in with a load of world champions and just opened up a school of killers. This is grass roots. This is guys training together every day. A lot of us travel around the country too – Cork, Limerick, Belfast, Newry – and because of that everyone’s level is getting better.
“We’re all playing our part in helping the sport to grow. There’s no animosity between the teams and that proves how close knit the community is,” he added.