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Determination and dedication helps Leah secure another boxing title

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Boxing was the word on the tip of everyone's tongues over the weekend, particularly women’s boxing and the undisputed world lightweight championship Katie Taylor’s fight with Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden in New York.

FAMILY: Victorious All-Ireland Girl3 66kg boxing champion Leah Sheehan pictured at her home with her stepdad Mike mom Teresa and little brother Nathan. Photo: Marie Carroll-O'Sullivan

Leah Sheehan pictured with her family on a canvas which met me at the front door.

It was another fantastic achievement in her monumental career. 10 rounds of courage, determination, skill and stamina, not to mention the massive role model she is to young Irish boxers oozing positivity and gratitude throughout. I had also been carefully watching online updates of Mike and Teresa’s Leah who has always been a ‘knockout’ behind my lens since the first day I met her. I was delighted to see their family portrait hanging when I arrived.

Killarney Community College student Leah Sheehan, a member of Johnny and Jennifer Coffey’s Sliabh Luachra Boxing Club, enjoyed a similar boxing victory taking home gold as the newly crowned ‘All-Ireland Girl3 66kg Champion’ at the National Stadium in Dublin last Friday having defeated Leah Moore, Ballybough, Dublin. The boxing club brought home three gold medals in 2021, and Leah increased this to four in 2022. Gold medalists from Sliabh Luachra Boxing Club were also Mary McDonagh, Michelle McDonagh, Jamesie Casey and a silver medal went to Sean O’Riordan.

“If you want something bad you have to work hard for it," Leah said. "I train six days a week and followed a strictly balanced protein diet to build and maintain as I trained. Katie Taylor has done so much for women’s boxing. She is a huge role model and boxing wouldn’t be where it is today without her. She is a massive role model. She inspires me.”

Leah and I chatted a little about Katie and recalled how Katie once fought disguised as a boy just so she could compete. Mum Teresa arrived with a cupán tae.

“I couldn’t have done it without the help of my mother," Leah continued. "Everyday she prepared different variations of turkey, chicken, rice and veg, together with two litres of water per day to help me with the cleanest diet to improve my performance.”

Teresa smiled.

“Marie, it was the hardest thing to enjoy an Easter Egg or any treat for that matter in the build up to Leah’s fight but she was determined and didn’t complain once,” Teresa replied. “Training first Marie. It’s what I want so it’s what I had to do to achieve my goals,” Leah explained.

DEDICATION

At 14 only just, I admired Leah’s determination and dedication and I could see from the way she spoke that she was truly passionate about boxing.

“Leah, what was the food you most craved while you trained?" I had to ask. “Pizza! I couldn’t wait for a slice of pizza so we went out and ordered one to take away. Having craved it for so long, you can imagine my face when it was accidentally dropped on the floor and another one was put on immediately. Every minute I waited I felt it Marie,” Leah laughed.

“At my level of boxing my fight was just three rounds, each round for one and a half minutes and it went for three full rounds. My weight is 66kg but I want to move down to 63kg to gain more experience of competitions. I know my fantastic coaches Johnny Coffey, Jake Kelly and Mikey Broderick will help me with that when I return next week and it’s onwards from there hopefully. I really want to succeed. I was also lucky enough to do some strength and conditioning with pro boxer Kevin Cronin in the month leading up to my fight. I really enjoyed that also. Marie can I please say thank you to Davy and Catrina Corkery who are great as our main sponsor, Kingdom Truck & Trailer?"

Mike, Leah’s stepdad, told me about the next steps for Leah. I was distracted a little as she beamed and hung on every word Mike said about her future in boxing. Leah wanted this so bad, this was very clear.

“Next up in June is the National Cadets Competition. If Leah succeeds, she will become part an elite high performance training which in turn will lead to boxing for the Irish team and the possibility of being selected to go to Turkey to represent Ireland in the European Championship,” Mike explained.

Teresa added, “Marie, no one should be thanked more than Mike for the guidance and support he has given Leah on this journey."

Leah continued “He’s travelled the length and breath of the country for me and it’s definitely brought us closer than we ever were before.”

“Leah, how do you feel when you realised that you’d won? What did you do?” I asked. “The first thing I did was phone my Grandad Liam O’Connell. I loved his words Marie. He said "Leah you are my hero. I am very proud of you and I love you so much"," Leah replied.

Congratulations and the very best of luck in June Leah Sheehan, the brand new All-Ireland Girl3 66kg champion! It was my pleasure to snap this ‘knockout’ yet again!

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Wildflowers are not always simple to grow

By Debby Looney, gardening expert There is nothing quite like the low, humming sound of insects in the garden. I always find the different pitches of the buzzing fascinating, from […]

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

There is nothing quite like the low, humming sound of insects in the garden. I always find the different pitches of the buzzing fascinating, from the drone of a big, furry bumble bee to the high pitched whirring of hoverflies.

And wasps always seem to have a dangerous sound – it is unique to them, in any case. It is possible to help pollinators into your garden at almost any time of the year, solitary bees such as bumbles and leafcutter bees, will come out of hibernation on a sunny December day if there are some heather flowers nearby. tulips, hyacinths, crocus and snowdrops provide sustenance in early spring, along with shrubs such as hamamelis, daphne, viburnum and willow. In April, the small flowers of the field maple attract many insects, as do the large trumpet shaped flowers of rhododendrons and azaleas. Wildflowers are now beginning to bloom, and they are the subject of today’s column!

While it seems counterintuitive, wildflowers are not always simple to grow, especially as we mean ‘pretty meadow blooms’ as opposed to ‘weeds’! Creating an area for wildflowers takes some preparation. Most important is that it is a weed free area. Kill off any grass or weeds before sowing, either by using conventional weedkillers, or by laying down a sheet of black polythene or weed suppressant. Make sure any seeds which germinate are removed also, and that problematic plants such as rushes, are dug out. Most importantly, ensure all grass is gone, as wildflowers do not compete well against its vigorous growth. Rake the top layer of the soil loose to a fine tilth, and do not add fertiliser! Wildflowers will generally not do well in a rich soil. When your area is ready, decide which seeds are best for your spot. There is much to choose from, for example, single varieties such as ragged Robin, teasels and poppies, or mixtures. There are seed mixes for perennial meadows, ones which attract birds – these usually have a high volume of seed bearing flowers, mixes for bees, ladybirds or certain colour mixes. There are also soil specific mixes.

SOWING SEEDS

Sow your seeds thinly and evenly onto the prepared ground. I tend to cover with netting at this time of year, because, although it is the best time of year to sow, and there is a very high germination rate, birds are also a problem!

The only maintenance really is to keep an eye on slug damage – I scatter in a few pellets when I sow anything – and if there are very dense clumps of seedlings forming, thin them out. When the flowers have gone to seed in the autumn, just cut them to ground level, leave the cuttings a few days for the seeds to drop out, and rake the foliage up. If left to rot in situ, it will make the soil too fertile for a good display the following year.

I mention the use of slug pellets. To the best of my knowledge, the use of metaldehyde poison in slug pellets has been banned for a few years now, and pellets are made of ferric phosphate which is not harmful to pets or birds unless ingested in very large amounts. However, there are some ingredients used in slug pellets which may potentially cause damage to earthworms and other soil dwellers, so please, always use sparingly and where possible, not at all!

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Routine and balance are crucial in the run up to exams

By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors As you approach the countdown to the beginning of the Junior and Leaving Cert Exams on June 8, it […]

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

As you approach the countdown to the beginning of the Junior and Leaving Cert Exams on June 8, it is very important to maintain a healthy balance so that you can pace yourself properly.

It can be tempting to try to pack in long hours of last minute study at this stage and become more focused on what you don’t know instead of what you do! Stress is a normal part of facing exams and in fact a certain amount of it is helpful to ensure that it mobilises you to perform well, but it is essential that you keep it, and the exams, in perspective. After many years of supporting students before, during and after exams, I know too well how overwhelming the experience can be so I urge you to do everything you can to look after your well-being at this stage.

Before the exams

Stick to a good routine with a healthy balance in terms of revision, rest, fresh air, sleep and diet. Don’t be tempted to work late at night as it is usually unproductive and impacts on your concentration the following day. Approach your last minute revision in a targeted way with the guidance you have been given by your teachers. Have a schedule with your exam dates/times highlighted hanging up where it is obvious and visible at home and take a photo to save on your phone.

During the exams

Set two alarms for the mornings of exams and allow lots of extra time. You will need to be in your assigned seat in the exam centre at least 30 minutes before the start of the exam on day one and 15 minutes before all other exams. Hydration is really important during the exams to help with concentration so make sure you have plenty of water. The first thing to do when you look at the paper is to read the instructions carefully, your teacher will have gone through these many times with you. Mark all the questions you are going to do and write out a quick time plan for yourself. Focus on exactly what you are being asked; the most common feedback from examiners is that students give a lot of irrelevant information so keep glancing back at the question to keep yourself on task to target the marks.

Breathing

If you feel you are becoming really anxious in the exam hall, focus on controlling your breath to bring a sense of calm. Breathe in through your nose for two seconds, hold your breath for one second, and breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. Repeat for one minute.

After the exam

Try to avoid too much discussion after each paper, ‘post-mortems’ of the exams are rarely helpful and can add to stress levels so once each exam is done, take a break and then move on to preparing for the next one. I can tell you that regardless of what happens in each exam, you will have lots of options available to you and an interesting journey ahead.

Keep in mind that while the Leaving Cert is an important exam and big milestone, it will not define you for the rest of your life. Best of luck to the class of 2022!

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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