Lords of the dance and karate: Two world champs in one class

Donal O’Regan


Donal O’Regan

Kilmallock boys strut their stuff on the international stage: World champions in Irish dancing and Tang Soo Do - Ronan OBrien and Michael Gammell - show their fifth class teacher in Scoil Mocheall�g, John English, some of their skills. Picture: Michael Cowhey
HAVING one world champion would be a boon to any school but Scoil Mocheallóg has two in the same class!

HAVING one world champion would be a boon to any school but Scoil Mocheallóg has two in the same class!

Michael Gammell is the number one in the world in Tang Soo Do [a Korean martial art]. While Ronan O’Brien would give Michael Flatley a run for his money in Irish dancing. Michael, who is 11, took a break from his fifth class studies to speak to the Leader.

“I went over to Cardiff in Wales with my mum Eleanor and dad Michael to compete in the world championships a few weeks ago. I won the bronze medal last year but I won gold this time,” said the modest Michael. He took on competitors from across the globe but Michael was the last boy standing. Currently he has a red belt but at this rate it won’t be too long before he has a black one.

“I’ve been doing karate since I was in senior infants. I go twice a week to Munster Martial Arts in Hospital where I am taught by my master and I practice every day too. I really like karate,” said Michael.

As well as being two world champions, Michael and Ronan are great friends too.

Unfortunately Ronan is out sick from school with bad asthma, which makes his achievements even more incredible.

He has won practically everything in the dancing scene - All Irelands, Irish nationals, North American competition, British Nationals and, of course, the world championships.

Like Michael, Ronan started when he was very young. His mum, Jackie, said it was the illness with his chest that actually got him started.

“When he was two and a half he had double pneumonia. The physio came down to the ward and 24 hours after he was admitted to hospital she had him hopping around on a hopper ball. She said he really needed to be jumping around to get the mucus off the lungs.

“My elder daughter was attending Irish dancing lessons. I asked would the teacher let she him go into the class and jump around. She agreed but little did we know he was going to end up a world champion,” said proud mum, Jackie.

Ronan attends the O’Rourke School of Irish Dancing on the Ennis Road and Jackie is full of praise for the teachers.

“He goes three times a week. He works very hard, he has great teachers and has the talent so it is a little bit of everything,” said Jackie.

The fifth class boys and girls in Scoil Mocheallóg gave the two boys a special buala bos and Jackie says it is a lovely class.

Their teacher John English said it was a great achievement by the two of them.

“It is rare you would have two world champions in one classroom. They are two lovely lads and they get on well. We are very proud of them - anything they do they give their full commitment,” said John.