Joan with her son Martin, whom she credits all of her karate success too, while on the phone home to her younger son Jonathon to tell him the news that she had just won a gold medal again in Germany.

Joan Sheehan was 34 years of age when she first trained with Kildorrery Karate Club. Her son Martin was only 16 at the time and had started teaching karate classes in the village parish hall.

Because of his young age, the local priest had insisted that an adult should supervise the class for insurance reasons and so Joan, who had encouraged Martin to pursue his passion, volunteered.

It was April 2005, and Martin was coaching an adult class on Wednesday evenings. Joan hadn’t shown any real desire to take up the sport herself at this point but as the weeks passed by she had a change of heart.

“I wasn’t actually training at that stage myself but I was sitting through the classes anyway so I decided to get involved and started training myself. I didn’t think I’d get very far, I never wanted belts or anything but then I got caught up in it and when I got my purple belt I thought I might go further,” Joan recalled.

Full story in our Christmas special ‘By The Fireside’ in shops now