Kickboxing: Cookstown’s Jason Bell takes Irish Open title

Pictured from left to right: Joe Hagan, JP McGeary, Billy Purvis, Jason Bell, Noel Tierney, Cara McLaughlin, and Paul Foley.
Pictured from left to right: Joe Hagan, JP McGeary, Billy Purvis, Jason Bell, Noel Tierney, Cara McLaughlin, and Paul Foley.
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It was a busy weekend for Cookstown Kickboxing club. Six fighters attended the Irish open which was held in Citywest Dublin at the weekend.

The Irish open is a huge event which attracts the best kickboxers from across the globe and is now officially the world’s largest tournament with over 3,300 competitors attending this year’s event.

Cara McLaughlin was first into the ring. Noel Tierney got a bye through the first round which meant he would fight on the Saturday. Saturday also saw the start of the light contact divisions for Jason Bell, Cara McLaughlin, Paul Foley, Billy Purvis and JP McGeary.

Cara was matched up against Ro Wilson an English opponent in the fullcontact over 3 x 2 minute rounds. Cara got off to a great start pushing back her counterpart with strong frontkick and scoring well with her hands winning her the first round. In the second round saw the English girl coming out blazing but McLaughlin held her at bay showing good skill and composure. In the third round it was all to fight for and both give their all. It was even right to the bell and unfortunately Cara lost to a single point. Still, a great achievement and experience to be fighting at this level for the woman from Pomeroy.

Saturday morning saw the start of a busy day. First up was Noel Tierney in the ring fighting fullcontact Jose Contero. We seen the man from Spain beat a Hungarian fighter on Friday night, a strong fighter who liked to come forward. Noels game plan was to hold the centre of the ring and fight from distance which he executed perfectly. By the end of the round Tierney had the Spaniard on the back foot and forced a standing count in the dying seconds. This proved to be the end of the fight with the man from Spain unable to get of the stool for the second round and the referee proclaiming victory to the red corner and Tierney to move forward to the next round in the championship.

First on the mats was Jason Bell in the advanced men’s heavy weight division. This is Jason’s first time to step up to this level and I knew he was ready. Jason has been part of the club now for some years joining when he was twelve years of age. His talent shine’s through and he proved his ability at this tournament. Getting a bye into the quarter finals he met Stian Nordgard from Norway, a strong man who liked to slug it out. Withstanding the pressure Bell scored the clean shots and won the fight decisively. In the semi-finals he fought Reece Philips from the United Kingdom a talented fighter with great movement. Bell got off to a great start building up the scores early. Phillips wasn’t giving up without a fight and kept the pressure on our young fighter. In the last round the fight was even and Bell had to dig deep. With flurries of punching and kicking the bout ended in dramatic fashion with applause from the massive crowd. The bout ended very close and to our delight Jason Bell was named the winner and moved into the heavyweight final of the world’s biggest tournament.

The final was against another Norwegian, Arni Gudnason, an excellent fighter who we had been watching throughout the tournament. An explosive start to the bout showed both men were there to win. Bell was caught with a flash shot to the chin which dropped him to the mat. To the roar off the crowd Jason got back to his feet. Carefully getting his composure back the young man from Orritor Street finished the first round with great technical scoring and the computer scoring on the big screen showing him up on all three judges’ scorecards. We reminded Jason on the stool, now feeling the pressures of a long day that he was going out into the final round of the final fight to lift the title. This saw a determined young man step back out on to the mat and fight a great final round showing all his abilities in punching and landing head kicks, unanimously winning the bout on all three judges’ scorecards. Jason truly deserved his place at the first place spot on the podium.

Next section up was the ladies lightcontact division and Cara Mclaughlin again. Cara fought Mitra Hoijatoleslami from United Kingdom. After fighting on Friday night in the fullcontact Cara was determined to win. The fight was a very fast pace with Cara counter fighting and scoring a lot. Mclaughlin controlled the fight and won the fight with a decisive 3-0 victory. Her next opponent was Petra Gramen from Hungary in the quarter finals. The Hungarian was an excellent kicker and gained the lead in the first round. In the final round Mclaughlin kept the pressure on with a tight guard not allowing her opponent to use her kick as effectively. Coming back well she narrowed the score by landing good punching techniques to the body and head. Unfortunately at the final bell the Hungarian had held on and won the fight at a close margin with a spilt decision.

JP McGeary was up next and fought Neal Porteous from United Kingdom in the huge middleweight section which had 36 people entered into. The Coalisland man started the bout carefully weighing up his opponent. Seeing the opportunities JP opened up and scored heavily outclassing the English man winning a unanimous verdict. In the same division, on the other side of the drawsheet we had another kickboxer. Paul Foley from Toome was matched against Ritorto Jacopo off Italy. A strong start from Foley put the Italian on the back foot from the outset and he proved to outclass his opponent. Outboxing him on every encounter Foley proved too be too much for Jacopo with the referee stepping in to stop the bout proclaiming foley the winner moving him into round two of the division. JP then met another Italian by the name of Marcone Claudio. A good kicker the Italian got into the lead early and despite a gallant effort McGeary never got the points back and lost out at the bell. Paul then fought Lewys Young from United Kingdom in round two of the section. Both men were evenly matched and the bout was a real thriller. Neither man was giving an inch as they both fought and scored points. At the final bell the man from the north of England was proclaimed the winner. Both JP and Paul give a good account of themselves and as the saying goes will fight another day.

Billy Purvis fought next against Stain Nordgard of Norway. The Norwegian who stood at six foot six was a formidable opponent for the Cookstown man. Not at all phased Purvis immediately put on the pressure landing with his trademark right hook driving the Norwegian back. Both men fought a careful bout but unfortunately Billy was pipit at the end losing out on the decision.

The evening show was a huge event with a large crowd attending to see some of the best fighters in the world compete in the finals. The show had finalists in all disciplines with Semicontact, Lightcontact, Fullcontact and musical forms.

The semi-final of the men’s middleweight fullcontact division was a huge fight with our own Noel Tierney against Norways Raymond Straume. Straume who has a very impressive record was trying for his fifth consecutive tournament win over the past year. Needless to say this did not faze the Kildress man who was as determined as ever. In the first round Tierney kept control of the distance scoring well with the lead foot finishing the round up by a point on the judge’s computer score cards. In the second round Straume came back and clinched the round. Going into the third round Tierney was down two points. In the third round Tierney changed the tactics and scored with powerful kicking and punching combinations and at the final bell too the crowds delight was deemed winner by a unanimous decision.

The scene was now set for an epic battle for the men’s middleweight fullcontact final, taking place on the Sunday, between Ireland and the USA. Noel Tierney in the blue corner against Nathan Key in the red corner. Key, who is a four time world champion, is one of the best fighters out there. The first round was a careful start with both men casing eachother out and landing heavily on each other. The first round finished even. Round two was explosive with Tierney landing strong roundhouse kicks to the body of the illusive southpaw. With Key scoring with some good punches the round finished with Tierney down a point. With nothing in it in the third round it was all to win. An excellent display of the highest standard of kickboxing was cheered on by the large crowd of onlookers. A close fight but someone had to win with Nathen Key maintaining his one point margin at the end of the bout won the decision. Tierney finished the tournament with a silver medal, a massive achievement in such a prestigious event.

Joe Hagan, Chief Instructor at Dojo Cookstown, said, “I asked the American head coach in the ring for a rematch and with a little delay he smiled and agreed. So hopefully the Cookstown fans will get to see this level of competition at home here very soon.

“Over all I see the tournament as being a fantastic learning experience for all our fighters and I am very proud of all their commitment and dedication and of how they performed at the weekend.

“As always the calendar is full and the next event for our team of fighters is the all-Ireland finals which will be held in Dublin on the 22nd March. Some tickets are still available for any fans who wish to attend.

“The club is always open to new members from young too old if you want any information contact me on 07956586100.”