Above: Ryan Sheehan warming up with coach Martin Horgan.
The Neptune Stadium was recently once again home to what has become Ireland’s biggest Muay Thai (or Thaiboxing) spectacle. Twenty bouts of national and international fights thrilled the audience who, as usual, provided the event with an atmosphere that only Irish fans could provide. Tania Presutti was there to catch the action.
You know you have witnessed something special when a full 2000-seat stadium is on its feet. On Saturday, February 20, Irish fans came together to celebrate what was the emergence of a promise fulfilled. One of their own, the young 18-year-old Ryan Sheehan from Siam Warriors Muay Thai (Cork), in convincing fashion, won his European ISKA title fight at bantam weight against the French fighter Tristan Caetano.
After the first two rounds the French fighter was so bloodied up that the referee and ringside medic decided to stop the fight and the victory was deservedly awarded to the young Cork man. In the fight Sheehan showed why he is named one of the best young fighters in Ireland at the moment. He dominated every part, from distance fighting to the close in-fights in the clinch. His French opponent, who took the fight with just a few weeks’ notice, as Ryan’s original opponent had to withdraw with injuries, had a few good moments during the two rounds the title fight lasted, but no one watching could be in doubt, that this was Ryan’s fight.
Aside from the European title fight, the event offered three national title fights and a big clash between two of the best fighters from Thailand (home of Muay Thai) with the audience getting full value for their time and money as usual. The domestic line-ups were very well matched and exciting; worth mentioning is the clash between Eoin McCarty (Cork) and Robert NG (Limerick), which had McCarthy taken the lead from the get-go, but Robert NG almost tipped the scale to make it a draw after a huge last round.
Also notable were James ‘Donkey’ O Connell (Tipperary) vs William Murphy (Cork) who had a rematch for the National 57kg ISKA title. The fight went all five rounds and had both fighters pulling out all the stops and tricks to the fans delight, but in the end, it was James O’ Connell who got the win from the judges.
The big international fight between the two Thais gave the audience a look into the elite level of Thaiboxing. A fight that was sure to inspire both active and budding fighters to get in the gym and work on their techniques. Ireland isn’t only smitten by the everrising popularity of Conor McGregor and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts); Muay Thai (Thaiboxing) is also seeing a steady rise of interest, which creates more gyms and more fighters.
No doubt Conor McGregor’s fame has helped in getting media and thereby mainstream attention to combat sports in general, but the Siam Warriors events in Cork have helped put Cork on the map, as the Irish Mecca for Thaiboxing.
Behind the Siam Warrior events is Cork man Martin Horgan. Martin has been involved in Thaiboxing for many years, both as a fighter, a trainer and a promoter; and it is the two latter that takes up most of his time these days. The events have grown from being a national feast of the best fighters in Ireland to include some of the best fighters from Thailand and Europe.
This in turn has made the promotion grow from it’s infant days 13 years ago, where it was the fighters, their families and friends who made up the audience, to the 2000-seat sold out stadium it has evolved into today. With a clear vision for his events and Irish Thaiboxing in general, Martin Horgan has succeeded in putting Cork and Ireland on the international Thaiboxing map.
“The Cork shows have grown tremendously and we have been blessed with an audience who has taken so well to the format. It’s given the Irish fighters a good platform to showcase their skills on, but also to grow into. My hope is to see Irish fighters stepping up in competition and fight the Thais and take on big international competition,” says Martin Horgan on the future for his events.
Aside from running the big shows, Horgan is the daily head coach of the Cork based Thaiboxing gym Siam Warriors, and on this night he made time, as usual, to corner several of his fighters, amongst them one of the most promising rising stars in Ireland, Ryan Sheehan.
Looking into the glassbowl and trying to predict a future for the young Sheehan, Martin Horgan is very clear. “Ryan has a great future ahead of him if he continues the way he’s been training so far. He’s only been with us for about four years but he’s been training hard and dedicated. He took seven fights the first year of his training and has always had a good attitude. He doesn’t take time off after the fights, but has been straight back in the gym, wanting to learn more and getting stronger. I think Ryan will keep improving and will hopefully be one of the Irish fighters we’ll see on the international top level in the nearest future.”
Opportunities to learn Thaiboxing in West Cork can be found at Brucies Gym in Bandon. The gym — run by Andrew ‘Brucie’ O’Brien, one of the veterans in Irish Thaiboxing — runs classes for adults every evening (beginners and experienced alike) and has just opened up separate kids classes as well. Please contact the gym on Facebook (Brucies Gym) or call 087 911 5089 for hours and prices.