Ex-footballer and ex-rugby man bring new facilities to Limavady

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Two prominent Limavady athletes who left mainstream field sports behind to focus primarily on gym-based sports are hoping to bring their love of fitness to a new audience.

Michael Walsh and Andy Chapman, a former Limavady United player and a former Limavady Rugby player respectively, are hoping to inspire others to join a new training craze sweeping the Roe Valley.

The local athletes are branching out and opening a new gym in Limavady, named Adonis Fitness, aimed at bringing elite fitness to ordinary people..

The fitness obsessed duo got to know one another through their love of training and the similarities between the two men, now business partners, are striking.

Michael played under former Northern Ireland international goalkeeper Tommy Wright in one of the best Limavady United teams in recent memory, while Andy captained Limavady Rugby club before leaving to play rugby in New Zealand.

Both men eventually gave up on the more traditional sports to focus on gym-based sports - a fairly new sport known as CrossFit in Michael’s case and competitive power-lifting in Andy’s.

The duo have been forced to travel quite a bit to find specialist gyms and coaching for their chosen sports and have long dreamt of opening a facility of their own a little bit closer to home.

So that is what they decided to do and the new facility - named Adonis Fitness - will open to the public early in the New Year.

Funded from their own pockets, the popular local athletes know they are taking a risk and will have to balance full-time jobs and family life with the new venture - as well as their busy training schedules. Not that it is causing too many sleepless nights for the energetic pair, as Andy explains: “It is truly a labour of love. We are going into it with a complete focus on living our passion for helping others.

“We’ll both be keeping our full time jobs, so money isn’t a motivating factor at all. We want to share our passion for health and fitness, and hopefully we’ll be able to pay the rent and help a few people along the way.”

He also spoke about their own achievements and how they developed their own passion for training. He said: ““I went to New Zealand to play rugby in 2008 and I came back at the end of the summer 2008 and, when I came back the first game of the season was a Town’s Cup game against Ballymena. I did my cruciate in my knee. I needed a knee reconstruction after my first game. That put me out of rugby but there was sort of a void that needed filled. In April 2009 I entered my first powerlifting competition and I broke two Northern Irish records at that. That was the beginning of my journey to where I am at now.

“Because I am small and rugby was my sport, I needed to work on getting strong in order to stay competitive at the level I was at. Even before I finished playing rugby, I had started to enjoy the gym more than I was enjoying the rugby so that was a natural progression when I wasn’t able to play rugby any more. I broke two records at my first competition and I have been doing it ever since. I was a double world champion a few months ago as well, in Limerick. I won three world golds down in Limerick in October. It was a progression over, six years I have been doing.

“Through the gym-based training I met Mickey and we have been best mates ever since. It is a really similar story for the two of us. He played football for years and he played at a really good level. He was a fantastic footballer and he was the same, he started getting really into the training and started to enjoy the training more and eventually the football started to take a back seat. This year, he discovered that he is a really good CrossFitter. He had a decision to make and he decided to drop the football and now he is one of the top CrossFitters in Northern Ireland. He was at an event called the Irish Throwdown that you reported on in the Sentinel a while back and he finished in the top 30 - that is the top 30 in Europe. At the minute he is right on the cusp of qualifying for an event called Revolution. He has one qualification left and he needs to finish in the top 25 - he is sitting in 15th right now.

“That’s the best CrossFitters in Ireland. If you ask anybody who knows Mickey from a footballer point of view, they will all tell you he was one of the fittest footballers about. He has always had that base level and he has been able to take it even further with the correct coaching.

“People who maybe don’t do a lot of training are maybe a bit scared of CrossFit but you really need to just try it. It is the one sport I have seen where people, no matter what their starting level, are able to do the same class as the best people in the sport and walk away with the same feeling of achievement. It is all encompassing and it is very open.

“Having said that, what we are hoping to bring is not just a CrossFit gym, but an all-encompassing fitness gym. We want to be as open as possible. If people are interested in becoming healthier and feeling better, we are here for them. This is for them. This is something that they can achieve. It is for everybody.”