This week ex-professional footballer Brendan Moloney speaks to Adam Moynihan about his career in England, his toughest opponents, and coaching back home in Kerry.
Hi Brendan. Thanks for speaking to me.
No bother, Adam.
How are you coping with the lockdown?
It’s very frustrating, to be honest with you. But it’s affecting everyone and we have to be respectful of what’s going on. Hopefully if we live by the rules it won’t be too long before we come out the other side of it.
You’re currently coaching the Kerry U17s and the Killarney Athletic seniors. Are you enjoying it?
Yeah, I love it. I had no interest in coaching at the start of my career but that changed as I got older. When the injuries started coming, that kind of made the decision for me.
What is it about coaching that appeals to you?
I like putting a plan in place, working on it, and then seeing it come together on a matchday. When you work on something and then see it happen, you get a thrill. And I think you get a bug for it.
What’s your long-term goal in terms of coaching?
Long-term, I’d love to give it a go cross-channel, but obviously it’s not as easy as that. You need to prepare and learn as much as you can. Opportunities don’t knock too often. When you do get the chance, you have to be ready to take it.
How would you rate the standard in Kerry at the moment, both underage and senior? Are there players who have what it takes to go pro?
This is my first year with the Kerry U17s and there are some very good players. With regards to making it, it’s hard to tell. It takes a huge amount of dedication and discipline. You never know, hopefully in the next few years we’ll start to see players coming out of Kerry and going on to a professional set-up. They’re getting good coaching from a young age and they have great facilities in Tralee.
At senior level, Celtic are way out in front. Ourselves, Castleisland and Listowel would be next and then there’s a big drop to the other teams. Last season the boys did so well to get to three finals, and that was down to their commitment.
Celtic have had a core group for a number of years and they have added very good players from around the county, so realistically they expect to win everything domestically. Hopefully next season, if the commitment is there again from our lads, the gap won’t be as big as people think. And maybe there will be a league or a cup there for us in the next few years.
What’s your happiest memory from your playing days?
Definitely winning the League Two title with Northampton in 2015/16. We had a good group of lads, the banter was great, everyone got on, and we won the league handy enough. It was just one of those years when we went into games knowing we were going to win.
You played under some very high-profile managers. Who was your favourite?
Chris Wilder at Northampton. He was a brilliant manager. I can see why he has had so much success with his hometown club, Sheffield United. He used to get the best out of everyone, but he had that harsh streak about him as well. He had everyone’s respect and you just wanted to go out and do well for him.
Who was the best player you ever played with?
Wes Morgan. I played alongside him at Forest and he would just make you look good. An unbelievable defender. You just knew he was never going to have a bad game.
Toughest opponent? I seem to recall a duel with Zlatan at one stage…
Yeah, I was lucky enough to play against Man United in the League Cup that time with Northampton, so I could pick any of those players. They put out a strong team and Rooney and guys like that were playing. They were just on a completely different level. It was an unbelievable experience.
Back in my Forest days, Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer (Swansea) were so direct and tricky. Very tough to play against.
Any embarrassing moments? Did you have to do initiations at any of your clubs?
Yeah, I used to hate doing them. It’s at every club you go to. Normally it was on the first away trip. You’d be down for dinner at six/half six and next thing you’d hear the glasses being tapped. It was awful. I used to even hate watching other people doing it!
What was your go-to song?
Ah, anything! I’d lash out Stand By Me or Wonderwall, anything you could get away with for 30 seconds. You’d try and pick a song that the boys would clap along to! They were just always terrible.
Who’s the most famous person in your contacts?
One name I saw there, and he is absolutely flying at the moment, is Dominic Calvert-Lewin. He was on loan with us for six months at Northampton. I haven’t spoken to him since, and he probably doesn’t even have the same number!
Favourite restaurant for takeaway/delivery?
Favourite spot for a pint?
Kate Kearney’s as well. Or if I go into Killarney, The Laurels.
And last one… Which of your Killarney Athletic or Beaufort clubmates would you least like to get stuck in an elevator with?
Any of them who are Liverpool fans!
Killarney Valley AC named Club of the Year at national awards ceremony
Members of Killarney Valley Athletics Club had cause for celebration on Wednesday as they picked up the prestigious Development Club of the Year prize at the 123.ie National Athletics Awards.
The award is handed out annually to a club who have made a positive impact on behalf of the sport within their community.
Sprinter Sarah Leahy of Killarney Valley and UL was also honoured with the Female University Athlete of the Year award.
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, coach and committee member Tomás Griffin said he and his clubmates were “delighted” and “very proud” to accept the Club Development award on behalf of all their athletes, coaches and administrators. The opening of their new track alongside St Brendan’s College in 2020 has been crucial, Griffin explained.
“The facility a catalyst but the passion was always there and we had people doing their best and coaching long before there was a track. To see the momentum that came with the opening of the track being maintained is great. We now have a waiting list of people looking to join the club.
“Did we see ourselves winning an award like this, in an organisation of 53,000 members and 400 clubs? No. But was it always possible? Yes. Killarney as a town across all sports – Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, cycling, judo, rock climbing – it’s a place where people excel. The bar is already raised. But being able to reach this level and achieve what we have in just two years shows what other talent is out there.”
Killarney Valley now boast five Irish internationals, 320 registered members and 22 Athletics Ireland accredited coaches. The club won 107 provincial and national medals in 2022, and they had 155 graduates from their Couch to 5k programme. Many of these participants are now regulars in the local Park Run and are continuing their personal health and fitness journeys with the club.
Nine Killarney Valley representatives attended the awards ceremony on Wednesday: Tomás Griffin, Jerry Griffin (chairperson), Bríd Stack, Gene Courtney, Con Lynch, Karen Smith, Sarah Leahy, Jordan Lee, and Madie Wilson-Walker. Sarah’s parents Mike and Marie also made the journey.
Jiu-jitsu champion Wilson da Silva sets sights on world title
This week Adam Moynihan called to the Movement & Fitness Club on New Street to catch up with Killarney man Wilson da Silva. The 38-year-old Brazilian recently won gold at the European Championship for Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and now he’s gunning for a world title.
Wilson, congratulations on your latest success in Rome and Abu Dhabi.
Thank you, Adam.
Before we chat about that, let’s go back to the start. How did you end up living in Killarney?
I came here around 15 years ago because I met someone from Killorglin and we went out for five or six years. After we broke up, I came to Killarney. I’m pretty much half-local, half-Brazilian now.
What part of Brazil are you from?
The northeast. A place called Recife. If you look at the map, it’s the nearest point to Ireland.
Do you get to go home often?
I try to go once a year, you know? I was home earlier this year and then before Covid. But once a year I go home in the summertime.
It must be nice to get some sunshine.
It’s nice, man. Even recently the doctor told me I have Vitamin D deficiency. My skin colour needs the sun! So I go home once a year. I follow the doctor’s advice.
How did you get into jiu-jitsu?
I did it back home in Brazil but I continued here in Killarney. I trained with guys here, Pedro Bessa and Tom McGuire. Then there is another club in Killarney and I trained with them up until four years ago. Things weren’t working out so I started my own gym. I just wanted to do things my way which was to have a clean place, no ego, no drama, no stress, no jealousy. Just come, train jiu-jitsu and help each other. And it’s going well.
Was it hard to go out on your own?
In the beginning it was really difficult because I was opening a second club in the town, on my own. There was really only one guy who wanted to train with me, but then my fiancé (Ewelina) started training and one became two, two became three, and it started to grow. Now we have classes for babies from three years up, kids and teenagers. We’re doing jiu-jitsu and capoeira for all ages. I guess it’s something good for the community.
Can you tell me a bit about jiu-jitsu? Is it similar to other sports?
If you were to describe jiu-jitsu to someone who never saw it, it would be very similar to judo. You have people throwing each other and putting each other on the floor. The jiu-jitsu match is five minutes long and the goal is to checkmate the opponent, to make your opponent quit, or tap out. So there is a lot of ground work, grappling, and wrestling. It’s an excellent sport and great for self-defence. I can’t recommend jiu-jitsu enough.
So there’s no striking?
There is no striking but [in terms of self-defence] there is ducking from striking, turning a strike into a mobilisation. It’s about finding locks on the body – the joint moves this way for example (he turns his arm) – figuring out how the anatomy of the body works.
It seems quite technical and intellectual.
Yes, it’s a very intelligent sport. I trained in weightlifting for a long time, for many years. With time it simply comes down to reps, breaking muscle fibre, and you’re not learning anything. It’s boring. With jiu-jitsu you’re constantly thinking. You’re constantly working your brain.
I compare it to a game of chess. First you figure out how to move the pieces, and then you have to play strategy. Look ahead to the next move and what your opponent can do to you. The moves are complicated and you’re always learning new things. It requires a lot of focus and discipline to get good at it. You don’t get bored with jiu-jitsu.
Is the focus and discipline side of it good for the kids who come to your gym?
Yes, definitely. I find that it is so beneficial for the kids. The kids want to win but if they want to win, they need to learn the moves. In order to learn the moves, they have to pay attention. So straight away it develops focus and concentration and discipline. If they do not pay attention, if they run around the place, they’re going to lose when they spar. It fixes itself. The guys who come in, pay attention, and it makes the others not want to lose so they pay attention and worker hard to learn the moves.
You can see the difference in the kids when they come here. We try to make them comfortable in uncomfortable situations so that when you take the child out of the jiu-jitsu class and they have a to deal with a hard subject in school, or a bully, they are mentally stronger.
I have witnessed that myself. I worked in security for many years and before I dedicated myself to jiu-jitsu, I found it easy to lose the head. But the more hours I put into the gym and training in jiu-jitsu, the more comfortable I became with frustrating situations. You’re able to remain calm. That’s a benefit of jiu-jitsu.
How important is size in jiu-jitsu?
That’s a tricky one. People say that size doesn’t matter. It definitely does. There’s no doubt about that. But the beauty of jiu-jitsu is that once you have the technique, you’re able to apply it against bigger guys. You know, the bigger guys have big muscles and bigger egos, but if the small guy trains hard he will be able to move the big guy’s body in a way that works against him. The big guy who goes to the gym, he’s used to pushing the bar this way (straight out), whereas the guy who knows jiu-jitsu knows that if he moves the bigger guys arms here (upwards), he’s not strong anymore. Now the bench press is worth nothing.
Bigger guys think they are unbeatable. The small guys have to work for it. I always motivate the guys here in the gym to be humble. You always have to consider yourself the second best, the guy who wants to be first. The moment you think that you’re bigger and better than everyone else, you stop working.
Tell me about your recent victories in London, Rome and Abu Dhabi.
Yeah, so I went to the UK and managed to win four golds at the London Open in the ‘Gi’, ‘A’, ‘No-Gi’ and ‘Absolute’ categories. (The ‘Gi’ is a uniform sometimes worn in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. There are categories in which the Gi is worn – ‘Gi’ – and categories in which it is not – ‘No-Gi’. The ‘Absolute’ is an open weight division).
Then a couple of weeks ago I travelled to Rome to compete in the European Championship. The day before that event, the Rome Open was on and since I was already there, I signed up for that too. I won the first fight, submitted the guy, but then in the final I lost. It was a good lesson for me. Coming from so many wins, I thought I was going to smash this other guy. I got a bit cocky. Losing settled me down and humbled me a little bit. I went back to my accommodation and analysed my mistakes. I hoped that the next day I would be able to play a strategy to win.
In the end I managed to win four fights and win the biggest European tournament – the No-Gi European Championship. It was my dream. I have been there twice before and got knocked out in the quarter-final, and came third in the Gi division.
It was really emotional for me. It was a great achievement. Even now when I’m talking, I feel emotional. I don’t train that much with No-Gi so to come first in Europe, it’s hard to believe.
It’s really hard to run and promote a club and also train and win tournaments, a lot of people say it’s not possible, but I’m putting a lot of hours into this and proving that it is possible. When you work so hard, with the help of my training partners, the results have to come.
And you weren’t finished yet. Where did you go next?
Yeah, to finish the story, after winning the European tournament on the Saturday, I flew to Abu Dhabi on Monday for the World Championship. I managed to go there and win three fights before losing the semi-final after getting beat pretty hard. I got my ass kicked by the winner. Then I had to fight to win the third place [match]. So, even though it’s only third place, it’s third place on the biggest podium in the sport.
Is it normal to compete in this number of events in quick succession?
No. It’s crazy to do so many competitions in a short period of time. I usually take a month or two months off before the next competition. It’s expensive too and I must thank Kevin Leahy [from the neighbouring Black Sheep Hostel] for sponsoring me. But after London, I had a feeling that there was no stopping me. I’m healthy. I’m not injured. Now is my moment and I have to take the chance.
It was hard enough to believe that I won the European Championship but to go to Abu Dhabi and fight against the best guys in the world… It’s a dream. Well, it’s not a dream now because it happened. It’s a reality.
Is this it for you now? Have you achieved all you want to achieve?
No, there’s more. Much more. I want to win the World Championship in California next year. For sure I would like to win the European Championship next year too.
But my goal is more than just winning championships, it’s to build champions. I want to teach people and share techniques that are proven to work. As I try to grow the gym, I will continue competing for as long as God blesses me with this health. That’s it.
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