THE Emerging Talent Programme which operates out of the Mardyke Arena UCC continues to support some of the best young sporting talent on Leeside and beyond.
From swimming to soccer, golf to athletics and boxing to karate this innovative programme supports young aspiring sports stars of the future that have the talent and desire to go all the way in their chosen fields, all the while continuing with their studies.
One such prospect is Tower native Hieu Power. The 17-year-old has been a member at the Cloghroe Karate Club for 10 years after taking up the sport at the age of eight.
Hieu Power isn’t the first local star to be working his way through the club under the tutelage of Stephen O’Callaghan with many high performing young and not so young exponents of the sport making their way onto the world scene.
At present, two of the best young exponents of Karate, Sean and Christopher McCarthy also compete and train from the Cloghroe club.
For those that may question the levels at which these young Karate stars are competing a quick run through what Hieu has already achieved puts things very clearly into perspective – as he has previously secured the British, Irish & Nordic championship title, the IJKA world champion 2017, 2x Recchia as well as becoming an international cup champion.
Hieu was formally ranked 12th in the world in U16 -57kg and represented Ireland at two European and one World Championship.
“I have been doing Karate now for 10 years,” said Power. “I started when I was eight in Cloghroe Karate Club under Stephen O’Callaghan who is still my coach today. The club is a brilliant place to learn and work out of. The standard of competitor and trainer at the club is right at the top end of the sport.”
Power is obviously one of the best exponents at his age group right now but being part of the highly respected and sought after ETP as well as the Cloghroe Karate Club also means he gets to rub shoulders with the McCarthy brothers on a very regular basis.
“I get to see the likes of Sean and Christopher (McCarthy) at the club or the Mardyke nearly every day. They are both two years ahead of me so I get exposed to their level which I think is really good for me.”
Power may be well looked after at Cloghroe Karate Club but he still finds time to be a busy fifth year secondary school student at Ballincollig Community School while also attending the prestigious ETP at the Mardyke Sports Complex under the direction of Jeff Gomez.
Just before the Covid shutdown Hieu was continuing to impress and claimed the National Championships at U18 minus 61kg as well as at the heavier weight class of minus 68kg: National Champion in two weight divisions.
“I was recently in Budapest for the European Championships and managed to get through a very strong opponent from Germany which I was delighted with. Before that I was in Chile for the World Championships last October and I managed to finish ninth in the World at the Minus 61kg division.
“The Covid-19 shutdown has been hard on our sport, like for every other sport. I was hoping to go to Limassol in Cyprus for a Youth Premier league but that got cancelled.
“It was hard to see that one pass as I was peaking for that but as with many other things that is now all up in the air. Nobody really knows where everything is going to go from here but that is just the way things are right now.”
Power may well be in lockdown, like the rest of us but he certainly isn’t spending his time with boxsets and chocolate as continues to push himself from the comfort of his own home.
“I am training every day with the ETP and Jeff giving us conditioning programmes to get on with. I am also staying involved with the Karate side of things with online Karate classes so at this stage I am training hard twice a day.
“There is no denying that it is hard training like this. You are not training with a specific goal or target date. You are not training to peak for something definite. You are training just for the sake of training and to try and stay as sharp as you can. It is difficult to push yourself for a gold medal for an event that you don’t know when or if it will happen but that is just another challenge at the moment.”