BY KIERAN McCARTHY
SHE’S the world kickboxing champion who scored her first hat-trick recently.
As Bantry’s Lily de la Cour was crowned 2015 Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the Year at the Celtic Ross, news filtered through from the Kickboxing Ireland Awards in Dublin that she had also won two national awards, including Female Fighter of the Year.
It added to an incredible night for the 21-year-old who, last December, won her category (-50kg) at the senior WAKO World Kickboxing Championships held in Dublin.
Her world title win saw Lily recognised with a West Cork Sports Star monthly award before she was unveiled as the 2015 Sports Star of the Year last Saturday night.
‘I am shocked, to be honest,’ Lily told The Southern Star.
‘There was such a high standard of nominees and monthly winners. All of us have achieved what we wanted to achieve in our sports, and it’s fantastic that my achievements at the senior world championships have been recognised with such a great award.
‘We have been training for years and we have always sought recognition and sometimes it wasn’t there. It wasn’t until The Southern Star, the Celtic Ross and C103 started to support us with these awards that our sponsorship started to increase – that’s certainly the case for me.’
Lily becomes the fourth West Cork sports woman in a row to receive this prestigious award, but she’s not one to rest on her laurels.
The UCC student who is currently on work placement in St Mary’s Secondary School in Macroom took some time off over Christmas but she is now making plans for another big year, starting with the first leg of the national championships of February 14th where she will defend her senior title.
‘I took a break over Christmas. 2015, more than any year before, was so, so hectic; it was crazy. Training for any world championships takes a lot of time but it was worth it in the end,’ explained Lily, who is extremely thankful to her sponsor, Michael Minihane of Minihane Chartered Accountants.
‘This year one of my big objectives is to get my degree, so Christmas was a time to take a few steps back and plan out the year. I started back to college on Monday (on placement in Macroom) and I work part-time at the weekends, as well as training, so it’s pretty busy, but I love it all.’
Also present in the Celtic Ross Hotel last Saturday night to watch his star pupil receive the highest accolade in West Cork sport was Lily’s coach, Ian Kingston of West Cork Kickboxing Club.
‘He is the most modest and humble person, and he has taught me everything that I know. It’s that simple. He has supported me all the way from the very beginning,’ she explained.
‘I think that in 2015 Ian really showed that he knows me as a person and an individual as well as a kickboxer. I didn’t get as much time to train one-on-one with him as I usually would in a normal year because I had so much going on with college and work. So he said: “what’s the best plan we can make for you to fit everything in and not burn you out?”
‘It would have been easy for him to give out and say that I needed to be training on certain nights, but he didn’t because he knew it wouldn’t work.’
These Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Awards also mean a lot to Lily as she is a former Youth Sports Star of the Year, has also won monthly awards, and now she has added the top prize to her impressive trophy haul.
‘These are really important awards and very important to West Cork sport and to the people here,’ Lily explained.
‘I was nominated for the KBI award, which was great, but you don’t get the same support and backing as you do with the West Cork Sports Star Awards because they are well established at this stage.
‘In college when we were asked where we were from, people were saying Clare, Galway, Cork and when they got to me I said I was from West Cork. The lecturer laughed, and said that I couldn’t say I was from Cork, I had to say I was from West Cork! It has its own identity.’
West Cork is certainly unique with its broad range of sports and talented sports people, and on top of the pile currently stands Lily de la Cour – a world champion kickboxer from Bantry who is a fabulous ambassador for West Cork sport and West Cork in general.