The Irish Amputee Football Association's World Cup squad; Owen Casey, Donal Bligh, Kevin Cahillane, Simon Baker, David Saunders, Mandy King, Garry Hoey, Alan Wall, James Boyle, Kevan O'Rourke, Craig Dowling and James Conroy, were presented with their International caps last night by FAI Chief Executive John Delaney. The ceremony, hosted at Bewleys Airport Hotel marked the end of a two week journey which saw the 16 strong squad travel to Culiacan, Mexico, compete at the World Cup against some of the finest teams in the sport and achieve a World ranking of 18th. The squad received a roaring reception at Dublin Airport where family and friends continued the incredible support that the players and staff had been blessed with throughout the tournament and indeed throughout the year. The FAI's Football For All National Coordinator Oisin Jordan welcomed the team home at Bewleys Hotel and John Delaney, who had addressed the squad before their departure, returned to award the players for their achievement. This squad made history as the first Irish team ever to compete at the Amputee Football World Cup and will undoubtedly go on to compete at many more in the years to come.
The IAFA International squad embarked on a once in a lifetime adventure nearly two weeks ago when they left Ireland for Mexico. In the coming weeks the players and coaching staff will have ample time to reflect on what was an incredible and invaluable experience: a World Cup debut against Brazil; a group game against the three time, reigning, World Champions Uzbekistan; games against sides from South America and Africa and an intense battle over two games with Eastern Europeans Ukraine.
Expectations were high when the squad left Dublin. Ten months of preparation, training and hard work had been put in by both players and coaching staff. Ireland were drawn in the tournament's group of death alongside Brazil, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, all three of whom were ranked within the top ten before the tournament. The Irish amputees were unlucky to lose to Brazil in their first game, inches away from taking the lead in the game on a number of occasions. World Champions Uzbekistan proved too strong for Ireland in their second game although James Boyle did score Ireland's first goal of the World Cup in the second half. It is also worth noting that Ireland were the only other team, with finalists Angola, to score a goal against the former World Champions during the tournament.
Ireland played Ukraine in their final group game. Having drawn the first half 0 - 0, a harsh second half penalty left Ireland feeling that they could have won the game. Neither side progressed to the last 16. Ukraine's poor goal difference meant that they would contest the Copa Culiacan with the Irish team, Kenya and Columbia. Ireland cruised past Kenya despite not firing on all cylinders. They were then in the driving seat against Columbia until the South Americans scored a fortuitious equaliser. A second half sending off meant that Ireland had to settle for a point. Level with Ukraine after two group games the sides played off for top spot in the group in their final game of the tournament. Fatigue and the emotion of the occasion had a bearing of the Irish team's performance. Ukraine took the lead and used their vast experience to grind out a win, Ireland's effort ensuring that they would have to battle to the very end.
Ireland finished the tournament in 18th position, second in the Copa Culiacan group with 4 points. Ireland were one of the highest placed World Cup debutants. They were recognised by numerous sides, Ukraine in particular who had beaten them convincingly in 2012, as one of the up and coming sides in the sport. While the draw hindered Ireland's progress in the tournament the opportunity to play against some of the best teams in the World will undoubtedly stand to Ireland as they look to build on this invaluable experience.
The IAFA players would like to sincerely thank the coaching staff for their monumental efforts throughout the year. Manager Christy McElligott, Coach Kevin Brady, High Performance Coach Alan Heary and Physio Dave Cushen have all worked tirelessly to prepare the squad for their World Cup experience. No stone was left unturned and the players wanted for nothing over the course of the year.
To the families, friends, fans and supporters, you enabled the players and staff to be all that they could be during the tournament and during the year. You stuck by us through thick and thin, shared in the excitement and the disappointment and made each and everyone of us feel like superstars. We at the IAFA could never thank you enough.
We would like to thank the FAI, Oisin Jordan and John Delaney in particular, for your belief in our ability to compete at International level. To our main sponsor Paddy Power without whom our trip to Mexico would not have been possible and indeed to everyone both in Ireland and Mexico who contributed in so many ways to make our World Cup experience so enjoyable.
Last but by no means least the IAFA would like to say a special word of thanks to the two members of our Junior squad who travelled all the way to Mexico to share in the experience with the International squad, Josh Dunne and Kieran McCartney. It was a real pleasure to share the experience with these superfans and their mothers, Orla Dunne and Sonja McCartney. Both shared results, pictures and videos through their Facebook pages and kept all our supporters back home up to date with events in Mexico when the squad itself was unable to do so. Issues with communication and internet access were a problem for the team in Mexico but the players and staff were enabled to rest easy safe in the knowledge that Josh and Kieran were sending messages home on our behalf.
This may be the end of our World Cup journey 2014 but... brace yourselves... this is only the beginning of the IAFA's efforts to compete at the highest level Internationally in the years to come.
From a tired and emotional IAFA reporter, thank you all for sharing the journey with us, visiting our website and social media pages, and I sincerely hope you'll continue to follows us!? As the fella says; We'll be back!! COYBIG!!
Ireland lost to an experienced Ukraine side in the final Group game of the Copa Culiacan and their final game of World Cup 2014. The result left Ireland second in the group with a World Ranking of 18th. Ireland started the game very well but when Ukraine took the lead towards half time it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Irish amputees. Try as they might Ireland could not find an opening to grab that vital equalizer. Ukraine used their vast experience, kept it tight at the back and broke on the counter attack. Ireland welcomed back Garry Hoey to centre midfield after his second yellow card against Columbia had been recinded. Solid performances from the ever consistent Kevin `Butch` Cahillane, Donal Bligh and Simon Baker were not enough unfortunately as the toll of 6 games in 7 days began to show in the Irish team`s performance. Stay tuned for a full review of the Irish team`s performance at this year`s Amputee Football World Cup where valuable lessons were learned and much experience was gained.
Ireland secured a valuable point today against a fit Columbia side. The result puts Ireland level on points with Ukraine going into the last round of matches of the Copa Culiacan. A win against Ukraine tomorrow will see Ireland achieve top spot in the group and a World Ranking of 17th. Ireland started the game brightly and Craig Dowling maintained his impressive form, finishing clinically at the back post following a James Boyle through ball to give the Irish amputees the lead. Columbia struck back before half time, however, through a fortuitous goal. Ireland worked hard throughout the game, despite the dead heat of the Mexican afternoon and were unlucky not to score a second. Garry Hoey was harshly dismissed with a quarter of the game to go following a second bookable offence. Ireland coped well against Columbia's extra man and held on to clinch a result. With 4 points from 2 games in the Copa Culiacan Ireland's destiny is in their own hands. Tomorrow's rematch with Ukraine promises to be a cracking encounter with the winner taking the Copa. The squad has remained confident and disciplined throughout the tournament and a win tomorrow would be well deserved. COYBIG!!
Ireland recorded their first win of their 2014 World Cup campaign this morning with an impressive 4 - 2 win against a hard-working Kenya side. The result leaves Ireland top of the Copa Culiacan group and with every chance of securing a World Ranking of 17th if they can build on today`s performance. Ireland scored first through Craig Dowling and although Kenya replied with a goal from a corner, the Carlow native put Ireland back in the lead within minutes. Garry Hoey also struck, with his first ever International goal, before half time leaving Kenya with an uphill battle in the second half. Shortly after the restart James Boyle scored his second goal of the tournment and although Kenya pulled a goal back the Irish amputees looked strong in the closing period of the game. In today`s other game of the Copa, Ukraine drew 0 - 0 with Columbia. Ireland face Columbia tomorrow and a similar performance will certainly give them every chance of winning the game. Ireland looked comfortable and confident today and have clearly put the disappointment of defeat against Ukraine behind them.
Italy, Japan, USA and Great Britain were all beaten in the round of 16 today which shows just how competitive this World Cup has been to date. Both Brazil and Uzbekistan recorded convincing wins against Germany and France, respectively, proving that Ireland were most definately drawn in the `Group of Death`.
Not only is the World Cup up for grabs over here in Mexico, each and every team competing in the competition will achieve a World Ranking by the end of the tournament. Although Ireland have missed out on the chance to play in the last 16, they will instead play off in the Copa Culiacan against Kenya, Columbia and Ukraine to determine their final placing in the competition. Ireland play Kenya on Thursday, Columbia on Friday and face Ukraine for a second time on Saturday. Although still heartbroken after the disappointment of yesterday`s result, the squad cannot wait to get back out on the football pitch to prove their worth and achieve the highest World Ranking possible. COYBIG!!
Ireland lost narrowly to Ukraine this morning in their final group game of the 2014 Amputee Football World Cup. In a tightly contested game, Ukraine narrowly edged the match, on a day when the bounce of the ball fell the way of the Eastern Europeans. The game was evenly balanced at half time with neither side able to break the other down in the first 25 mins. Ukraine took the lead from the penalty spot, following a controversial decision, in the second half and scored a second late on. Although the squad are obviously bitterly disappointed, it is worth noting that Ireland were beaten by Ukraine 8-0 in Poland in 2012. This Irish squad has improved immensely since then and following three impressive performances in the World Cup´s ´Group of Death´are most unlucky not to have made it into the last 16. A World Ranking is still up for grabs and Ireland will compete against the other group runners-up latter this week to determine their final positioning. The squad will rest tomorrow before playing again on Thursday. Each and every member of the squad gave their absolute all on the football pitch today and can be proud of testing and making the eighth best team in the World scrap for a result.
Ireland faced 3 time Amputee Football World Champions Uzbekistan this morning and despite losing put in a creditable performance against a team that has dominated the sport for nearly a decade. The Irish amputees struggled to cope with the pace, technical ability and movement of Uzbekistan early in the game. The World Champions led 5-0 after the first 15 minutes of the game but Ireland rallied and created a few chances of their own before the half ended. In the second half Ireland pulled a goal back. James Boyle cooly coverted from the penalty spot after a Uzbekistan defender had blocked a Craig Dowling shot with a crutch. Ireland contained Uzbekistan for the most part of the reamaining minutes until they scored their sixth from a sublime freekick. The result means that Ireland still have a very realistic chance of making it through to the knockout stages. Brazil beat Ukraine 2-0 today to move into second place in Group A. Ireland face Ukraine tomorrow in a must win tie to decide who finishes third in the Group and after today´s ´never say die´performance, the squad are really up for it.
Today´s game also saw Mandy King make her World Cup debut. Mandy made history as the first woman ever to play in an Amputee Football World Cup and showed no fear or mercy as she hassled and harried the Uzbekistan defenders while on the field.
The squad will rest, recover and turn their attention to tomorrow´s game this afternoon. We´re still in it! COYBIG!!