Although ostensibly the last competition of the 2010/2011 fencing season in Ireland, the South of Ireland Open, hosted by UCC Fencing Club last weekend, was the de facto first competition of the 2011/2012 season. After the summer break the fencers congregated at the Mardyke Arena to compete in all 6 weapons; Mens Epee, Mens Sabre and Womens Foil on Saturday and Mens Foil, Womens Epee and Womens Sabre on Sunday.
Mens Epee was won by Foyle Fencing Club’s David Burnside who beat his club mate and Irish No.1 Andrew Fenwick in the final. Maynooth’s Fergal Martin and formerly Cork-based Frenchman, Nicolas Veyrat shared the bronze medals. UCC’s Matthew Tracey and Paul Whelan were Cork’s best, both getting to the Final 8.
National No.2 ranked Stephen Concannon won Mens Sabre, with Foyle men, James Nichol, David Connolly and Richard Magee taking silver and bronze. Last years winner, Cork Sabreur, Hugh Tobin of UCC just missed the medals.
After a strong season last year, UCD’s Portuguese fencer Joana Romahlo, captured the gold in Womens Foil, beating Belfast’s Victoria Duxbury. Again, it was Northern Ireland based fencers who rounded out the medals. Katie Gillespie and Lucy Taylor took bronze medals home to Derry and Down respectively. UCC’s Shu Tay just missed the medals and led the strong Cork field of 10 UCC and 2 Cyrano women foilists.
Sunday saw an unusual entry in Mens Foil as both Epee finalists, David Burnside and Andrew Fenwick decided to enter the competition instead of cheering on their clubmates from the sidelines. Andrew made it to the final where he was beaten by Irish No.2 Fergal Martin of Maynooth. Maynooth’s Kevin Maher and UCD’s John Wyatt took the bronzes. Rory Hayes of UCC was the best placed Cork based fencer.
The pattern of Foyle Fencing Club success was repeated in Women’s Epee with the final being an all Derry affair. Emile McSorley beat Lucia McCafferty in the final. UL’s Miriam Cashman and UCC’s Jacinta Clair shard the bronzes.
In Womens Sabre, UCC’s Aoife O’Loughlin, ranked Irish No.1, couldn’t repeat last year’s victory, sharing bronze with Michelle Narey, from the UK’s White Eagle club. Oxford’s Francine Robb won gold, with Niamh Spence adding to Foyle’s trophy cabinet with silver.
All in all, a good turnout meant that 125 fencers entered across 6 weapons, although a recent change to the ranking system could mean that top Irish fencers concentrate on UK and European competitions to earn ranking points ahead of next years Olympics in London.
For Cork’s two clubs, UCC Fencing Club and Cyrano Fencing Salle, it was good opportunity to start the season close to home before the next competition which is the Intermediates to be held in UCD on the 1st and 2nd October.