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.