ULSAFC were left with mixed emotions following this season's second round of Central Venue fixtures in Watford on Saturday. A win, a draw and a loss, saw the team drop from second to third in the league standings with work to do if they're to challenge for the title with just 5 games to go. 4 points off top spot, 2 off second, UL will face each of their English opponents once more before the end of the season and with home fixtures next month the squad are confident that their goal is still within reach.
ULSAFC kicked off this round against reigning league champions Peterborough. The first half was a tight affair. UL held firm at the back but it was the Posh that were creating more chances. The second half was one to forget for the Limerick side. Houghton, the league's top goal scorer, finished passed UL debutant Justin Gary to give Peterborough the lead. A second goal quickly followed, as did a third from a free kick on the edge of the box. Houghton went on the score a hat-trick as the Posh put 6 past UL. Kevan O'Rourke scored a consolation goal from a Craig Dowling corner in what was ultimately a disappointing performance from the team.
In their second game of the afternoon UL were left frustrated by Arsenal despite upping their performance after their earlier defeat. Early in the first half Arsenal took the lead scoring directly from a free kick on the edge of the box. UL kicked on, however, and began to move the ball better and create chances. Behind at half time the Limerick squad were not prepared to lie down. Arsenal's keeper was forced into a succession of saves. UL eventually got the equaliser they deserved as Craig Dowling converted from the penalty spot. But the Arsenal shot stopper prevent UL from taking all 3 points. The squad were left frustrated by Arsenal's resilience particularly given that they had already dropped points in their first game.
Simon Baker's side pulled themselves together for the final game of the day. They faced an under strength, luckless Portsmouth side and had no option but to take all 3 points. UL proved to strong for Pompey and scored an impressive 8 goals. A determined team performance, each an every player made a fine contribution with youngster Neil Hoey popping up to score his first goal of the competition much to the delight of his teammates.
Peterborough took all 9 points from their fixtures and climbed to top spot. Everton recorded 2 wins to stay in second. UL dropped a place but remain in touching distance 4 points off the top. Maximum points from their remaining 5 games could yet be enough. Next month ULSAFC make history as they host their first round of EAFA fixtures. Everton and Man City travel to Limerick for a set of games that could prove decisive as the league draws closer to a finish. This league has proven highly competitive and entertaining from day one, no doubt the Irish leg of the competition will be thrilling too.
UL Sport Amputee Football Club took all 6 points in Lancashire on Saturday to move to second place in the EAFA Premier League. Wins over Manchester City FC and Everton FC saw ULSFC make up for a disappointing set of results in Manchester in Janurary. The team lost both their games after the Christmas break and fell to fourth in the table but two very solid performances yesterday put UL right back in contention for the title.
UL took on Man City in their first game and ran out 2-1 victors. In the early fixture City had beaten Everton comfortably 3-0. UL started with a high intensity and got a deserved reward for their efforts halfway through the first half as Dave Saunders tucked the ball home from a Craig Dowling corner. City hit back before the break, however, as Mickey Chambers struck a deflected shot past UL keeper James Conroy. There were chances for both teams to win in the second half but it was UL's striker Craig Dowling who clinched the winner. Alan Wall struck a fine ball to Dowling who, with his back to goal, flicked the ball first time over the shoulders of both the last defender and goalkeeper who rushed to close him down.
UL beat Everton in their second fixture by the narrowest of margins, 1-0. Everton had run UL ragged in Manchester in Janurary beating them 4-1 but this time out the Limerick side were determined to defend to a much higher standard. They did so and forced Everton onto the back foot, creating a number of chances, and eventually winning the game at the death. Kevin 'Butch' Cahillane struck calmly into the back of the Everton net, 2 minutes from time, when a lose ball fell to him with the Toffee's keeper struggling to get back into position. In truth there was very little between the sides on the day but UL just did enough to secure the 3 points in a tightly contested game.
Nearing the halfway point in the league, Everton lead UL on goal difference with City sitting 3 points behind in 3rd. With the southern region to play next weekend Peterborough have an opportunity to go top if they can take 6 points from their fixtures against Arsenal and Portsmouth. The EAFA Premier League is proving to be a cracking contest and there is no doubt there will be numerous twist and turns at the top between now and June.
The Irish Amputee Football Association held their Inaugural FootGolf Classic on Saturday 19 September at Footgolf Dublin. The event was a roaring success as teams of 4, young and old, from across the country competed for an array of top prizes. Players enjoyed a round of golf, a meal, the Ireland - Canada rugby match, a prize giving ceremony, raffle and charity auction. Johnstown FC, Meath, won the event with an incredible overall score of 233. One of their team members even equalled the course record held by James McClean and Jamie Carragher. They were the only team to score better than the IAFA foursome, 258. FC Bellew and Martin McQuillan's team, both Dundalk, took second and third places respectively. The IAFA would like to extend their sincerest thanks to all those who took part on the day, to the numerous companies who sponsored the event, to FootGolf Dublin and The Whitehouse pub, and to everyone who gave so generously on the day. Approximately €7,000 was raised on the day, all of which will go towards the further development of Amputee Football in Ireland, giving any person who has lost a limb or suffers from a limb affecting disorder the opportunity to play football at both grassroots and International levels.
The IAFA International squad travelled to Warsaw, Poland, to take part in the 4th annual Amp Futbol Cup on September 12th and 13th. In what was a difficult weekend for Ireland the squad recorded losses against Turkey, Italy and France. Turkey ran out winners of the tournament beating Poland in the final 2-1. Spain finished 3rd beating Italy in the 3rd/4th place playoff while France finished above Ireland beating the boys in green 2-1 in the 5th/6th place playoff.
Ireland started the tournament against 2014 champions Turkey. Ireland were simply outclassed by the Turks, ranked 3rd in the World following last year's Amputee Football World Cup, and lost the game 5-0. Despite the scoreline Ireland could take heart from a gutsy performance in which their never say die attitude was obvious from the first to the fiftieth minute. Turkey had beaten Italy 9-1 in the first group game of Group B and were undoubtedly looking to run up a similar scoreline against the Irish. Goals conceded in the first minutes of each half did not help the Irish cause. On a positive note, Irish goalkeeper James Conroy had a stellar performance pulling off a string of fine saves to keep the Turks out and 16 year old Neil Hoey showed no fear when he came on in the second half bullying his way around against experienced and professional Turkish defenders.
Ireland needed at least a point against the Italians to progress to the semi-finals on Sunday and they started the game at a blistering pace. Within the first 10 minutes Ireland were 1-0 up and cruising. Garry Hoey picked out Kevan O'Rourke's run in behind the Italian defence and the Westmeath man's first time finish beat the Italian goalkeeper. Ireland continued to create chances in the first half but couldn't find a second goal. In the second half the Italians improved and slowly but surely took control of the game. Without really troubling James Conroy in the Irish goal they forced Ireland further and further back. The Italians scored from two freekicks, the second late in the game took a deflection and gave Ireland little time to equalize although Kevin Cahillane came agonizingly close when his late strike hit the post. A crushing defeat, one our Irish amputees will have to learn from.
The squad picked themselves up and dusted themselves down for Sunday's 5th/6th place playoff against France. Again it wasn't Ireland's day. The French keeper was in top form and pulled off a string of fine saves. James Boyle was desperately unlucky to have his header, from a Craig Dowling corner, punched off the line by the keeper. Ireland continued to press but couldn't find the net while the French opened the scoring with one of the very few chances they created. In the second half Ireland equalized. James Boyle ran through on goal using his strength to hold off French tacklers. He laid the ball off for Craig Dowling to slot into an empty net. But the French weren't finished, capitalising on a defensive mix-up from Ireland to score late on. Ireland had chances before the final whistle but the French keeper pulled off a cracking save from Garry Hoey, Alan Wall struck narrowly wide from a freekick and Kevin 'Butch' Cahillane came close with a glacing header. Justin Guiney made his debut in goal for the IAFA against France and 16 year old Neil Hoey also featured. The future is bright for this Irish team if they can just turn their performances in results.
Amp Futbol Cup 2015 Results
Poland 1-0 France
Spain 3-0 France
Poland 2-1 Spain
Italy 1-9 Turkey
Turkey 5-0 Ireland
Ireland 1-2 Italy
Poland 3-0 Italy
Turkey 9-0 Spain
5th/6th Place Playoff
Ireland 1-2 France
3rd/4th Place Playoff
Spain 3-0 Italy
Turkey 2-1 Poland
The IAFA international squad finished runners-up to hosts Poland at last weekend's Amp Futbol Cup in Podhale, Poland. To the surprise of all involved, except the Irish themselves, the IAFA pulled off the shock of the tournament beating Ukraine in their second game to put them in with an outside change of winning the competition. Three professional and disciplined performances saw Ireland amass 6 points out of a possible 9 and secure second place. This was the IAFA's best ever performance at an International tournament and was very much deserved for a squad who have worked tirelessly since last January to mount a serious challenge on the International stage. Labelled the "dark horses" and later the "sensations" of the tournament, Ireland can feel very satisfied with their weekend in the south of Poland.
Poland 1-0 Ireland
Ireland opened the tournament against hosts Poland. McElligott's side set up defensively in an attempt to frustrate the poles who had finished 4th at last year's Amputee World Cup in Mexico. The midfield trio of Alan Wall, Kevan O'Rourke and Garry Hoey patrolled the central area and nullified the threat of Bartosz Lastowski "the Polish Messi" and limited the Poles to long range efforts. Simon Baker and Kevin "Butch" Cahillane remained solid at the back and made sure that Irish keeper James "Jack" Conroy had little to do in the first w5 minutes. Ireland managed to keep Poland out for the first half and for a period after half-time. The pressure from the Eastern Europeans was mounting, however, and a lapse in concentration at a dead-ball, allowed Thomasz Mis ghost into the box and finish from close range. Undetered Ireland remained composed, stuck to their game-plan and tired to catch Poland on the break. While "Messi" had two opportunities, one that went just wide of the post and a second, a header, that was saved expertly on the line by Conroy, Ireland too carved out two guilt-edge chances at the other end. Craig Dowling had two strikes, one that whistled over the crossbar an another that forced a top save from the Polish keeper. Poland held on for the victory but breathed a huge sigh of relief at the final whistle following Ireland's gutsy an determined performance.
Ireland 2-0 Ukraine
A Craig Dowling brace saw Ireland beat Ukraine convincingly in what was the upset of the tournament. Ireland had never beaten Ukraine prior to Saturday's meeting. Twice at the Amputee Football World Cup in Mexico Ireland lost to the Eastern Europeans. Twice this Irish side felt that had breaks fallen their way they would have beaten Ukraine. Confident, Ireland attacked hot favourites Ukraine from the off. A combination of passes put Dowling through on goal in the opening minute. He capitalise on a slip from a Ukrainian defender and tucked the ball low past the keeper. An end to end game of football ensued. Ukraine pressed for an equaliser while Ireland looked to extend their lead. Dowling, Alan Wall and Kevan O'Rourke all forced the Ukrainian keeper into a string of fine saves. At the other end Ireland continued to defend resolutely as they had against Poland and limited Ukraine to long range efforts. In truth Conroy wasn't often troubled in the Irish goal. The killer blow came in the closing stages of the game. Both sides began to tire as the effects of the 30 degree heat took its toll. Captain Simon Baker launched a ball forward to Dowling who beat a defender and squeezed the ball past the keeper and in off the post. It was a victory to savour for an Irish side who were left disappointed against these same opponents in Mexico last year.
The Netherlands 0-4 Ireland
Both Poland and Ukraine had registered 5-0 victories over The Netherlands on Saturday. Were Ireland to put themselves into a position to win the competition they had to secure a similar result against the Dutch themselves. The Oranje set up defensively and frustrated Ireland in the opening stages. An early tactical change by McElligott, pushing Alan Wall into a more advanced position, resulted in Ireland creating a string of half-chances. Wall and Kevan O'Rourke forced saves from the keeper and then Craig Dowling had a goal wrongly ruled out. The Irish frontman quickly made up for it, however, striking low past the keeper when he was played through by Garry Hoey. Ireland took control of the game in the second half. Wall scored his first International goal striking powerfully past the Dutch keeper when Dowling played a square ball across the box. Dowling was again the architect for Ireland's third, crossing from the left for O'Rourke to volley the ball into the back of the net. The Carlow man, Striker of the tournament with 4 goals, then wrapped up the scoring with another low strike following a cross-field pass from returning International Donal Bligh. Owen Cockery made his first International appearance replacing Conroy in goal in the closing stages of the game. Not long after being introduced he was forced into a cracking finger-tip save touching the ball over the crossbar to ensure that Ireland kept the Dutch scoreless.
Sitting on top of the tournament table with 6 points Ireland watched the final fixture of the weekend with great interest. Ukraine led Poland 1-0 at the break, however, the hosts notched up three unanswered goals in the second half to take the 3 points and shatter all Irish hopes of victory. Ireland forced the hosts to be at their very best in a tournament Poland expected to win comfortably. This Irish side can be very proud of their efforts over the last 18 months as the incredibly hard work put in by the staff and players alike is finally starting to pay off. Ireland play Great Britain on Friday and will return to Poland in September for the Amp Futbol Cup in Warsaw. The IAFA will push forward and continue in their attempts to improve as they aim to climb the World Rankings and become a real force on the International stage.
The IAFA International squad travel to southern Poland next weekend to compete in an International tournament against hosts Poland, Ukraine and the Netherlands. The tournament which will take place over two days, June 6th and 7th, promises to be a cracking weekend of football with Ireland set to renew rivalries with opponents they have met on numerous occasions previously.
The IAFA began their competitive International journey against Poland in England in 2012. They met the Poles again later that year in Warsaw and in 2013 faced them in the semi-finals of the Paddy Power Cup in Limerick. Ireland have never beaten Poland, who finished 4th at last year's Amputee Football World Cup in Mexico, but are eager to change that statistic next weekend. Ireland play Poland in the opening game of the tournament at 9.30 Irish time.
Ireland play Ukraine at 16.00 later that day. These sides first met in Poland in 2012 when the Eastern Europeans won comfortably, however, Ireland have narrowed the gap in recent times. Both nations were drawn in the same group at last year's World Cup. Although Ukraine edged an incredibly close encounter neither side made it through to the knock-out stages. They played a second time in Mexico, in the Copa Culiacan, with Ukraine emerging victorious again and securing a World ranking of 17th, just one place ahead of Ireland. Ireland v. Ukraine promises to be the most tightly contested and compelling tie of next weekend's tournament.
Ireland finish the tournament against the Netherlands, one of the International sides that travelled to Limerick in 2013 to contest the Paddy Power Cup. The two teams met in the group stages of that competition with Ireland winning 2-0 thanks to a brace from James Boyle. The IAFA will aim to maintain their 100% record over the Dutch next weekend but will be well aware of the threat posed by the traditionally strong Oranje. Ireland kick off against the Netherlands at 15.30 on Sunday June 7th.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates and results from next weekend's tournament in Poland.
Come on you Amps in Green!!
Match Report: Italy 2-1 Ireland
The Italian International Amputee Football team hosted the IAFA last weekend in Longare, Vicenza. This was the first meeting between these sides who both made their World Cup debuts in Mexico last December. Home side Italy, ranked 9th in the World, were favourites for the encounter and proved why as they started the match strongly. They took a 2-0 lead into the half time break with both Gianni Sasso and Emanuele Padoan taking advantage of slack Irish defending. Disappointed by their first half performance Ireland regrouped during the break and emerged a different team for the second 25 minutes. The Irish amputees dominated the second period and grew in confidence as the game wore on. Simon Baker and Kevin 'Butch' Cahillane took responsibility at the back and pushed the team forward. Alan Wall and Garry Hoey combined in midfield to create a wealth of chances and but for some excellent acrobatic saves from the Italian goalkeeper Ireland could have been out of sight. James Boyle excelled as the lone striker causing the Italian defence all sorts of trouble with his strength, skill and pace. Craig Dowling converted from the penalty spot, following a hand ball, to reduce the deficit. The Italians hung onto to their lead, however, and just managed to hang on for the victory. Ireland will learn from the experience and take confidence from their efforts in the second half of the game. The squad can look forward to fixtures in Poland and England in June where they will be presented with opportunities to settle a few old scores.
Dream Debut for Young Star
The Irish squad that travelled to Italy last weekend included three players who have only recently joined the senior international set up. Justin Gary, Owen Corkery and Neil Hoey were all given their first opportunity to sample Amputee Football at International level. Neil (15), a product of the IAFA Youth Academy, made his debut against the Italians and was very impressive in his first appearance in the green shirt. Although admitting to pre-match nerves Neil got stuck in after being introduced, worked hard for his teammates, hassled and harried and oozed confidence on the ball.
It was a fresh experience and it really opened my eyes to the world of amputee football. It was so much better than I could've imagined!
Neil was honoured to get his first taste of International football and pleased the coaching staff and his teammates alike with the impact he had on the game. Neil has a bright future in Amputee Football ahead of him and is a great example for our other young amputee footballers to follow. Neil also acts as proof of the fantastic work Coach Mandy King is doing with the IAFA's Youth Academy. He might be the first to make the step up to senior level but certainly won't be the last as our young players continue to work hard and enjoy their football at the academy.
The IAFA International squad will travel to Verona, Italy, next weekend to play the Italian National Amputee Football team on Saturday March 28th. This will be the first meeting between these sides, both of whom became founder members of the European Amputee Football Federation last month. Both teams are looking forward to kick-starting the new season off the back of impressive World Cup campaigns. Both countries made their Amputee Football World Cup debuts in Mexico. Italy qualified for the last 16, where they were beaten by Haiti in a penalty shootout, following an opening night win over hosts Mexico (2-0) and defeat to Poland (0-1). While 9 places separate these sides in the World Rankings Ireland will fight to cause an upset on Italian soil. The squad have trained well in recent months, meeting in Limerick and Dublin for group session, and are up for what should be a tough test. The IAFA squad have a busy fixture list ahead of them this summer and hope to start their season positively in Italy.
The annual '3' FAI International Football Awards take place on Sunday March 22nd and the IAFA's Kevan O'Rourke has been nominated for the Football For All International Player of the Year Award. Kevan joined the IAFA in 2012, made his debut in Poland that September and has since become an important member of the squad. Kevan has lined out for the IAFA on 18 occasions and has scored 4 goals. Kevan was also part of the International squad that travelled to Mexico last December to compete at the Amputee Football World Cup. Kevan's nomination is testament to the huge strides made by the IAFA in the last year. The IAFA are growing stronger and stronger and are now being officially recognised in Ireland for this progress. Following his impressive, influential and hard-working performances at the World Cup the IAFA would like to wish Kevan the very best of luck for the upcoming ceremony. The Awards will be televised live on RTE2 on Sunday Night. Tune in to see how he gets on.
The IAFA's World Cup squad returned for pre-season training last week at the University of Limerick. The squad welcomed some new and some returning players to the camp as they began preparations for what promises to be another exciting year of Amputee Football in Ireland. The players were put through their paces by manager Christy McElligott and coach Mandy King as they strove to regain their fitness in anticipation of a March International Friendly against Italy. Watch the interviews above to see how IAFA World Cup International, Garry Hoey, and new recruit, Justin Gary, got on over the weekend training camp.