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Every Thursday evening in an old Georgian building in Dublin 2, the sounds of med balls slamming and barbells dropping are being created by some of Ireland’s foremost fencers.

Sports Med Ireland has been providing Strength and Conditioning and Physiotherapy support to a number of elite Irish fencers for just over a year now.

The partnership began following an information evening organised by Philip Lee and the IFF for fencers in the Dublin area in December 2014. A number of athletes showed great interest and attended Sports Med Ireland for a movement screen, under the eye of Chartered Physiotherapist Domhnaill Fox. Since then Domhnaill has been training the group every Thursday evening in the facility tucked away on Kildare Street, opposite Dáil Éireann.

The group has grown over the year and is showing massive improvements in their strength, speed and power. Most importantly the training they are receiving is keeping them free from serious injury. While they only train once per week in the facility, Domhnaill plans out their weeks training using a handy smartphone app.

“Fencing is a very explosive yet very skilful sport, so there is no place for just getting bigger, faster, stronger like we see in a lot of sports nowadays. The key with fencing is to develop individuals who are powerful, fast and agile,” Domhnaill comes from a GAA background but has learned a lot about the sport of fencing and has a great understanding of its demands.

“From an injury point of view, these guys are very high risk. With explosive lunging and retreating comes massive loading through the knees and due to the asymmetry of the movement, the hips and spine come under a lot of pressure also.”

As a physiotherapist, his number one priority is to ensure the health of his athletes so a lot of his programming incorporates regular rehabilitation and mobility work.

“This is probably the hard part for the guys. Their rehab is individual based on what I see in the gym, their injury history, and my physiotherapy assessments; they are working on deficits and limitations of their own body. This is what allows them to continue to train and perform at a high level and what will ultimately allow them to reach further and further into international competitions.”

Domhnaill has his sights on growing the relationship with the IFF and also has thoughts on his visions for the current group of fencers he trains.

“Short-term I just want to keep them healthy and to allow them to progress in their fencing. But the long-term goal is to support a few Olympic athletes. We have to be looking towards 2020 and 2024, putting a structure in place for the 10,11,12 year olds that will then be eligible. It’s the only way the sport can grow, if there is a pathway in place for these kids.”

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