A NORTH Kerry boxer who juggled the stress of her Leaving Cert with twice daily training sessions, six days a week, has become Kerry's first ever female boxer to claim a European boxing medal.
Kilflynn native Niamh Ball won a silver medal at the Women's European Union Championships on Saturday - a massive feat for the Trojan Boxing Club member who was representing Ireland for the first time.
Having seen off the challenge of a German opponent in the semi-final of the 57kg competition, Niamh was pitted against reigning European champion Paulina Jakubcz in the final. While her Polish opponent proved too strong in the end there was certainly no disappointment for four-time national champion Niamh, who admitted she is still in shock at coming home with a medal.
"I honestly went there hoping to gain some experience, because this was my first time fighting for Ireland. I had no expectations of winning a medal so to come back with a silver is a massive achievement and I'm absolutely thrilled," she said.
Getting to the European finals was a hard slog, however, as Niamh had to fit in a gruelling training schedule with studying for her Leaving Cert. Her dad and coach, Graham, was her motivation, however, and managed to keep her focussed.
"I'd know her quite well and she is a really lovely person so it was great to be there with her on the Irish team," Niamh said.
"It was strange to be there without my dad coaching me but it was brilliant to be on the Irish team."
With barely enough time to relish her European success, Niamh is now almost certain to travel with Team Ireland to the World Boxing Championships in Russia in September.
"They're talking about sending the same team to the world championships and we've 10 weeks to prepare for that, so seeing as I won a medal at the weekend I'm hopeful of being part of that team," she said. "That would be another amazing experience."
Niamh's mum, Maria, told The Kerryman that she and her entire family were so proud of Niamh, who she said had worked so hard for everything she has achieved.