I am originally from Sligo and have been a member of Tallaght Martial Arts since 2009.
I began kickboxing nearly 20 years ago and have won over 11 National Titles at both Junior and Senior Level. I have also been a regular member of the Irish Kickboxing Squad for the last 15 years.
Tallaght Martial Arts is the most successful kickboxing club in the country and has produced many world and European champions so the opportunity to spar with people of that quality everyday was a massive draw for me. I couldn’t have achieved all I have without the support of my coaches and club.
In 2013 I was diagnosed with Crohns disease. For the previous two/three years I had suffered from an unexplained illness and fatigue but I didn’t think it was anything serious and just thought it was due to overtraining.
When they discovered it the doctors couldn’t believe I had been living with it for so long and that I had such a high pain threshold!
Being told was a bit of a shock, I didn’t really know much about Crohns disease to be honest, I didn’t understand that it was something I’d have forever. I thought it was an illness that could be treated and cured.
Crohns is a type of inflammatory bowel disease and can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract. It can be a debilitating illness and has symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, and abdominal pain, inflammation of the joints, skin, and eyes and many more.
My biggest fear was that I’d have to give up kickboxing and one of the lowest points in my life came when I was getting ready for a national title fight two years ago. I was so ill I ended up in hospital and had to hand over my title without even getting the chance to defend it.
I was too unwell to compete last year and that was really frustrating, but I was very determined to get back and compete and win.
Luckily for me my GP was a former rugby player who had worked with other athletes with similar issues and explained that when controlled, Crohn’s is a manageable condition.
I had to make adjustments in my diet but within a few months I was able to get back to training as hard as ever and in March I won the Irish Open in Citywest.
I was delighted because it’s one of the toughest to win, even harder than the World Championships, it gave me such satisfaction to comeback and be the best.
Last year I became involved in Sky Sports Living for Sport part of Sky Academy.
I am one of 36 Athlete Mentors in Ireland who facilitates the programme throughout secondary schools here.
We go into schools and talk with students about how they can get inspired and achieve their goals using the same transferable skills I’ve developed as an elite athlete.
Becoming an Athlete Mentor is a fantastic way to give back to sport and help promote the positive benefits of it to young people.
I hope my experiences can inspire students to pursue their goals despite any obstacles that life brings.
I also write a blog on sportswomen.ie which I really enjoy. It gives me a chance to share my story of dealing with Crohns with other people who may be going through a similar experience.
When I began kickboxing it wasn’t very popular with girls but that is changing now.
Initially I was the only girl in my club, now in Tallaght Martial Arts we have loads of outstanding girls winning titles and I can only see the sport getting even more popular.
There is still a lot of misconceptions about kickboxing, loads of people I talk to think I’m in a cage or that it’s very dangerous!
I played GAA growing up and I got more injuries playing that than I do in kickboxing!
The impact of my illness has changed my attitude towards sport and competing. I am so grateful that I still get to do something I love everyday.