FLYING THE FLAG Sinéadh Ní Núalláin is the inaugural Gaelic Athletic Martial Arts (GAMA) absolute national champion.
NEWPORT native Sinéadh Ní Núalláin has made martial arts history by becoming the inaugural Gaelic Athletic Martial Arts (GAMA) absolute national champion.
Ní Núalláin saw off Mary Taylor on ‘judges’ decision’ after a single five-minute round of jiu-jitsu at the Killeshin Hotel & Leisure Club in Portlaoise recently.
In doing so she became the first person (male or female) to become an absolute national GAMA champion.
“It was the first time they ran something [since the pandemic began], so to win it the first time…was great to get,” the 20-year-old bantamweight told The Mayo News.
Recalling the fight, she said: “It was so good. It was back and forward. There was a lot of submission attempts but we both defended quite well. It was all action, it was all ‘go, go, go’.”
While there was no crowd in attendance, the event marked a major milestone in Ní Núalláin’s career.
This latest win comes on the back of her winning a bronze medal for Ireland at the 2021 International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) Junior World Cup in Prague.
The Mayo women was among 26 Irish athletes who flew out to the Czech Republic at their own expense to represent their country in mixed martial arts, which is still yet to be officially recognised as a sport in Ireland.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Ní Núalláin has seen three of her fights cancelled in the past 18 months.
For the former student of Gaelscoil na Cruaiche and Coláiste Mhuire Tuar Mhic Éadaigh, the return of competitive final has been a welcome return to normality.
“It wasn’t easy, especially with our sport, it’s so close contact [that] there’s no way you can train with someone unless you’re training directly with them,” she explained.
“The gym was closed for ages so all I could do was shadow box, do my own running, do my own work-outs, we weren’t able to train as a team.
“It was definitely tough, but it’s good to get back to normality.”
“When we came back we were a bit rusty because we hadn’t [sparred] in so long,” she continued. “It was tough because you don’t forget things, but they do go to the back of your mind.
“I’m so used to training two or three times a day with John [Kavanagh] so the running was good for the cardio, but nothing too major. It just kept me ticking over.
“It’s so frustrating, that’s what we train for, we train to fight.”
Currently working as a personal trainer in Dublin, Ní Núalláin has sparred with men for several years due to the lack of female participation in mixed martial arts.
She is currently training under the renowned martial coach John Kavanagh, who has coached Conor McGregor in the past and is described by Ní Núalláin as ‘one of the best coaches in the world’.
A fluent Gaeilgeoir, she is hoping to organise at least two or three mixed martial arts fights before the end of the year.
So will Sinéadh Ní Núalláin follow in the footsteps of ‘Sugar Ray’ Moylette by fighting in the TF Royal Hotel & Theatre in Castlebar on live TV some day?
“Could you imagine!” she responded in a burst of laughter when The Mayo News posed this question. “Maybe one day, you never know. We’ll see how it goes!
“There’s not many girls from Mayo doing what I’m doing so it’s good to get Mayo on the map as well.”