BY KIERAN McCARTHY
GRAINNE Begley is only 15 years old but she’s already achieved more in her sporting career than most – she’s a world junior kickboxing champion.
At the WAKO junior world kickboxing championships in Dublin last month, the Bantry teenager fought her way to the top of the world, and exceeded all her own expectations by doing so.
‘The first two years I competed at the worlds, I lost in the first round every time. This time I felt I had nothing to lose because I couldn’t do any worse than I had before,’ explained Grainne, who received a Celtic Ross West Cork Youth Sports Star quarterly award last week.
‘I went into the first fight thinking, “okay, give it everything you can and see what happens”. I won my first fight so I had already reached my target, and I kept going after that.’
Grainne defeated fighters from Great Britain, Israel, Slovenia, Poland and Italy, as she became the first Irish fighter to win a world title in the kick light category.
A member of West Cork Kickboxing Club, which is led by the irrepressible Ian Kingston, Grainne has become the eleventh fighter from the club to win a world title – that’s a remarkable record and a testament to Kingston and his fighters.
When you add in the success of Sean Brady of ION Kickboxing Club, another Bantry teenager who won a world title at the same championships, and current West Cork Sports Star of the Year Lily de la Cour, herself a world champion, as well as fighters of the calibre of Tony Stephenson, then the talent of kickboxing in West Cork is there for all to see.
‘When I was younger Lily was my idol, I wanted to be like her and achieve what she’s achieved. Then you have Tony, too, who is an amazing fighter. They are so good, and to have them in the club (West Cork Kickboxing Club) is great for us younger fighters because we can learn so much from them,’ explained Grainne – a Junior Cert student at Scoil Mhuire in Ballyvourney – who also hailed the mentorship of Ian Kingston.
‘Ian put so much into my training. My world title is his as much as it is mine.
‘He has been by my side all the way and if there was ever any point where I was nervous or doubting myself, he would look at me and say, “Grainne, you can do this, you can win this”.
‘Without his support I couldn’t have achieved what I have achieved. He is always there for every single one of his fighters, no matter what.’
Considering she only turned 15 in July, Grainne already shows maturity beyond her years (and answers questions in this interview like a seasoned pro), but that comes as no surprise when you learn she has been kickboxing since she was six years old.
She has held a national title in each year since, and won two medals at the 2016 nationals – gold in kick light (her preference) and silver in light contact.
Grainne’s next challenge now is to move up to junior grade where she will be fighting 16, 17 and 18 year olds, and she knows she needs to get more aggressive.
The nationals and, hopefully, the European championships are on her target list for 2017, for a talented young fighter who, while already a world champion, is still at the start of her career.
‘There is so much more to come and you can compete in kickboxing into the veterans so there’s a long way to go,’ she smiled.
Daughter to Shane and Fiona, and sister to Deirdre, Brian and Sean, kickboxing is king in the Begley household, with Deirdre flying out to Maribor this month for the WAKO Senior European Championships while Sean (18) won a bronze medal at the junior world championships last month.
In a talented family, it’s Grainne who holds a world title, and you get the feeling there’s more to come from this impressive young champ.