THEY MADE THE GRADE IN JUDO by Mary Walsh
Judo training started in the Town Hall in Fethard on the sporting map. In 1987 alone, club has won numerous competitions, putting Fethard on the sporting map. In 1987 alone, members of the club have won trophies in the Munster championship, the All - Ireland, the Mizukwai open international event, the Brother invitational championship and the Tipperary open at Clonmel.
In the summer of 1982 Michael O’Meara met Johnny Sheehan and both of them decided that they wanted to organise some kind of club. Both of them were introduced to Sam Doherty, who was training the judo club in Bansah, and he gave them information about judo clubs in South Tipperary.
An introductory meeting was held in Fethard and a large crowd attended. A judo exhibition was arranged in the ballroom in Fethard, directed by Sean Carew, Ist Dan, from Dundrum. Noel Heffernan, 3rd kyu, from Ballywarden also attended the meeting . Fethard Judo Club was founded that night. The first judo classes were held in the Town Hall on October 9th, 1982, under Johhny Sheenan as instructor. The attendance’s were very high for the first few weeks but as the students realised that judo was harder than it looked, the numbers began to drop off until only a few of the original members were left.
Having got the club off to a start the committee began purchasing judo mat sections. Several jumble sales and church gate collections were organised to finance the expenses that the club incurred.
The club made its debut at county level in March, 1983. In March, judoka from Bansha, Cappawhite, Tipperary and Fethard competed for honours in the Marian Hall, Tipperary, where the club brought home nine medals. At the Tipperary open the competitors brought home eight trophies, and it was the first time that they met opponents from all over the country.
1984 was a quiet year for the club from a competition viewpoint. The principal factor was the non-participation of the parish in the community games. In1985, however, the club gained ground with Valerie Colville winning a place on the under 18 squad and she became the first girl to beat her opponent. Anne-Maria O’Meara was the only medalist, winning a bronze in the under 15 years
championships which were held in May. In 1986 eliminations were held in February to pick the Irish under 16 years squad to meet Northern Ireland. Of the forty places on the squad, Fethard judoka took seven .
Sean Carew, Ist Dan, held a number of grading exams in the club since it’s foundation. The variety of colours in the belts indicate the standards which each person has achieved. In March of 1986 Johnny Sheehan went to Ennis to a senior grading. He had worn his blue belt for over twenty years.
He was examined by Mr. Dan Walle, 2nd Dan, who awarded him the brown belt grade. Noel Heffernan was a green belt when he joined the club. He was awarded the Ist Dan, (black belt) in May,1985, in Galway.
Membership of the club is now 70, with about 50 judoka on the mat every night. The members are drawn from Fethard and the catchment area, and visitors from Clonmel, Bansha and Hollyford come to train in the club frequently. The class is divided into two sections; the first for the beginners or the smaller judoka; the second for the more experienced or bigger judoka.
Up to now the town hall has been very adequate as a training venue for the club, but due to the growth of membership of the club there is a need for bigger premises.