KILMALLOCK is considered to be Ireland’s best preserved medieval town and a visitor on Saturday would have thought they went back in time.
They were met with the smell of wood smoke, charring meat and the sound of a blacksmith hammering an anvil in the midst a bustling village of tents. Over 700 came to witness the Battle of Kilmallock.
It took place on the recently-opened western wall walk that skirts the perimeter of the town wall. Chief organiser and local historian, Trevor McCarthy, said the event was much more than a medieval re-enactment.
“The central action was a competitive full contact medieval combat tournament. The warriors participating were here for more than just fun, they came to fight and to win. One commentator describes it as ‘MMA with swords’,” said Trevor.
Several loud blasts from a bull horn brought an eerie silence to the crowd of 700 spectators who had not come for the market stalls or jugglers.
“They had come to witness war. A slow steady drum beat started as a line of grim faced and determined warriors emerged.
“They weren’t here to entertain the crowd, some hardly acknowledged the astonished faces who witnessed this parade of men clad in chainmail, leather and steel and brandishing swords, axes and spears,” said Trevor, who led the procession flanked by drummers into a large square. The beat got faster and faster, matching the combatants’ hearts.
When every warrior entered the arena the drums stopped. Silence broke out before battle commenced. Trevor welcomed the crowd and introduced the fighters.
“This was a truly international gathering as warriors stepped forward from Ireland, the UK, France, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary. The first fighters were Plamev Mechev of Bulgaria versus Lukasz Antonyck of Poland,” said Trevor. He screamed “fight” and all hell broke loose.
Trevor had promised full contact medieval combat and the participants didn’t disappoint. Blows are full-strength and strikes are allowed to the crown of the head.
“After a few seconds of working out their respective opponent they tore into each other like wild beasts. Sword met sword and shield met shield,” said Trevor. The crowd gasped.
For over two hours in the searing heat the 16 warriors dripped blood, sweat and tears. Afterwards Trevor said that morning he was “a bag of nerves” but everything fell into place.
“The weather brought out the crowd and we smashed our attendance goal. I’m so proud of my team for pulling it off,” said Trevor, who congratulated the winner Tamas Szinyeri from Hungary.
“It’s an amateur sport but the training that goes into it is incredible and what a final!”
Trevor’s thoughts are already turning to next year when he hopes Tamas will be defending his Battle of Kilmallock title.
“We pulled off Saturday on a shoestring budget. With a bit of support we can build this into an enormous event on par with our European counterparts,” he concluded.