The International Tipperary Judo Friendship Inclusion Games 2022 was held Saturday 12th November in the Nenagh Community College Sports Arena, a world-class venue by any standards. Participants from all over Ireland, the UK, Italy, Poland, Brazil and Switzerland descended on Nenagh to take part in what was the only fully autism-friendly, inclusive judo event of its kind in the world.
The event was organised to bring together two great elements of sport, competitiveness and inclusion. Judo as a sport is the second most participated sport in the world and is an Olympic, Paralympic, Special Olympic and Special Needs/Autism sport. Although mainstream judo and special needs judo train side by side all the time, rarely do they ever compete together at the same event.
This year’s event attracted competitors, both mainstream and special needs, from the length and breadth of Ireland and across Europe, all of who embraced and supported the uniqueness of this event.
Several elements were added to make it as autism/people friendly as possible, some of these additions included colour coding control tables at fields of play, express check-in procedures, no public address announcements, visual schedulers on large screens and non-judo related challenge games off the field of play to occupy athletes while they were waiting their turn to shine. Highly trained adaptive judo referees from Italy, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Brazil and Ireland were specially selected to ensure the full enjoyment and safety of all those taking part.
The event was attended by over 240 competitors and hundreds of parents & supporters. The mayor of Nenagh Hughie McGrath made a guest appearance and the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Judo Federation was the guest medal presenter. The local club, Black Eagle Judo / Judo Assist Ardcroney, had an incredible medal tally of 8 Gold, 14 Silver, 11 Bronze and 13 participation medals.
The tremendous community spirit that this event attracted was astonishing. The amazing group of volunteers, which included members of the community, foreign guests, club coaches and parents, was simply incredible. The generosity and support of both national and local businesses were also amazing. The event was proudly supported by Tipperary County Council, Nenagh Municipal District, Subway Nenagh, A Country Practice Vet Clinic, Equistyle Nenagh, Expert Electrical Nenagh and Davitt Cleaning Services Gorey.
Local businesses also benefited from the inflow of hundreds of people requiring food, drink & accommodation over the weekend making it a great success all round. The travelling guests enjoyed the great Nenagh Hospitality from The Abbey Court Hotel, Andy’s Gastro Pub & B&B and the Waterside Cottages, Dromineer, all of who did the town proud.
This unique event is the vision and passion of James Mulroy, president of Judo Assist Ireland and head coach of Black Eagle Judo/ Judo Assist Ardcroney. Along with his team of incredibly dictated volunteers/parents, his vision was to have an annual international event where mainstream & special needs athletes can compete side by side at the same event and that is exactly what has been achieved. This was the 5th year this event has been run in Nenagh and after a short break due to Covid, it was back with a bang.
Almost 140 children with additional needs competed alongside their mainstream peers, encapsulating the pure definition of inclusion and sport for all.
Also as part of the inclusion weekend and in conjunction with the EU Funded Autjudo project, Judo Assist Ireland hosted a well-attended free adaptive judo coaching workshop. This workshop was delivered by international experts in adaptive coaching, James Mulroy (IRL), Cilia Evenblij (Swiss) and Sean Davitt (IRL)