By John Egan
Growing up in Ireland in the 1940s and 1950s my interest in sport was bounded by hero worship of international boxing champions in the heavier divisions. Heroes such as Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson and even Henry Cooper.
I was aware then that there was more than one regulating body on the international boxing scene and it followed that there could be more than one champion in any weight division. With the advent of television, boxing became an even bigger lucrative pursuit and there was pressure for the creation of further bodies who wanted a slice of the action.
Today we have four major regulating bodies – WBC, IBF, WBA and WBO. All four organisations however, recognise the legitimacy of each other and have acknowledged that the cake is big enough to provide a share for all, even if most of the fight purse is shared between the two guys who slug it out in Madison Square Garden or Wembley Arena.
In terms of the growing numbers of regulating bodies I have heard many say that there are parallels between boxing and the administration of Irish dancing. But there the similarity largely ends.
Yes there are large sums of money involved, but these are mainly disbursed to vendors and dressmakers by dancers and/or their parents for ‘essentials’ such as costumes, wigs, shoes, lesson fees, competition fees, travel and accommodation.
Yes it is an art form of which we are rightly proud, but more than that it is a highly physical, competitive sport requiring training, training and more training to get to the top of the age division. It is now very difficult to keep tabs on the number of bodies worldwide involved in the sport of competitive Irish dancing.
No less than six of these – all based in Ireland – have progressed to staging their own world championships.
Within a two week period around Easter time world championships were held in Dublin (An Coimisiún), Belfast (An Comhdháil), Drogheda (Cumann Rince Dea Mheasa), Killarney (World Irish Dance Association), and later this year there will be two further world championships held in Killarney (Cumann Rince Náisiúnta) and Ballina (Cumann Rince Gaelach).
I recently returned from the CRDM World Championships which were held in the TLT Theatre in Drogheda. This was its fourth world event and its biggest to date with an increase of 75 per cent of entries over last year.
CRDM has also increased its international ties with Rince Nua Tuatha in the USA. Indeed CRDM dancers travelled there to compete in the New England Championships in Fitchburg, Massachusetts and many from that organisation travelled to compete in Drogheda where they rekindled friendships made last November in Fitchburg.
But the biggest increase in CRDM membership continues to be within Ireland itself where new teachers, new schools and dancers in all provinces have been added to its ranks. And long may its membership increase continue. It’s come a long way since its establishment in 2002.