ULSport Amputee Football Club finished fourth in the EAFA Takeda League Cup on Saturday June 11th. The competition was played as part of the European Amputee Football Federation's Amputee Football Development Weeks. 8 teams from England, Scotland and Ireland competed through 2 groups for the top prize. UL started the day brightly recording wins against Partick Thistle (4-0) and Manchester City (1-0) and drawing with Arsenal (0-0) to top their group. Having secured 7 points from a possible 9, scoring 5 goals and keeping 3 clean sheets the UL squad were in buoyant spirits as they advanced to the knockout stages.
UL met Peterborough in their semi-final, the side that had narrowly beaten them to the League title in May. UL dominated the game, created numerous chances but were unable to make them pay and Peterborough held out for a draw. The game would be decided by a penalty shootout. Both teams scored each of their first 3 penalties but when UL missed their fourth, Peterborough converted theirs to move on to the final. Everton beat Peterborough (1-0) in the final, having beaten Man City (1-0) in their semi-final, to lift the Takeda Cup.
UL were beaten (1-0) by Man City in the 3rd/4th place playoff, having given their absolute all to secure a place in the final in their previous match. There were a number of top performances from the Irishmen yesterday. Alan Wall scored all 5 of UL's goals, player/manager Simon Baker remained solid at the back throughout the tournament and the team's youngest member Neil Hoey showed great versatility performing well at the back and in a central midfield role.
The Limerick side capped off an impressive season without any silverware but with 4 very solid performances. The club, Ireland's first Amputee Football club, has gone from strength to strength since its inception last Autumn and will undoubtedly be looking to compete for the League/Cup double next season.
The IAFA International squad finished second at the Podhale Amp Futbol Cup for the second year in a row drawing with Poland (1-1) and Ukraine (0-0) and beating Germany (5-3) over the weekend of the 4th-5th of June. Following an impressive performance last year at the same competition that saw them narrowly lose out to the hosts the Irish squad hoped to go one better this year and lift the coveted trophy. Unfortunately, despite three very impressive performances the Irish side were once again bettered by hosts Poland. Ireland went unbeaten through the tournament for the first time in the associations history and took yet another step towards bridging the gap between themselves and Poland, currently ranked 4th in the World and one of Europe's top Amputee Football teams.
Poland 1-1 Ireland
Ireland kicked off the tournament labelled the 'mini Euros' against hosts Poland. These two sides had met on 4 previous occasions and each time the Poles emerged victorious so this was set to be Ireland's toughest fixture, one that would have a significant bearing on the destination of the cup. But Ireland started brightly. David Saunders broke powerfully down the right but his cross was cut out. Ireland enjoyed some early pressure but failed to really work the Polish keeper. Defensively Ireland remained solid and compact and captain James Conroy in the Irish goal, who would later scoop the prize for Goalkeeper of the Tournament, was rarely called into action. Neither side could break the deadlock before the break. The Polish improved in the second half and pushed further forward. They won a succession of corners but still couldn't find a lead goal. Ireland were then awarded a free-kick on the right hand side of the Polish box with 10 minutes left to play. Alan Wall stepped up confidently and thumped the ball around the Polish wall and into the top left corner of the net. Ireland led and Poland were rattled. A mistake allowed Kevan O'Rourke to break free of the Polish defence on the halfway line and race through on the keeper. His strike went wide of the left hand post unfortunately as Polish defenders got back to apply the necessary pressure. Ireland hung on and tried to grind out the result until in stoppage time the Poles equalised. Moments away from an historic win the Irish side remained proud of their performance and knew that they were still in with every chance of winning the competition.
Ireland 0-0 Ukraine
Ireland and Ukraine have a long history in the sport of Amputee Football. They had met on 4 previous occasions, twice at the World Cup in Mexico in 2014. There is no love lost between the sides and this game proved to be a highly competitive, tough and physical contest. Again Ireland started brightly. Three good chances fell to David Saunders (1) and Kevan O'Rourke (2) but both players failed to direct Alan Wall's fine crosses into the Ukraine goal. Craig Dowlng too almost capitalised on a defensive mix up but his delicate chip was deflected out for a corner. Ukraine who had already secured 3 points against Germany in their first game set up to frustrate Ireland. The sides remained level at halftime and while Ukraine did improve in the second half they created very few opportunities on the Irish goal. Ireland defended well, held their shape and continued in their attempts to break Ukraine down. Ireland threatened from set pieces and had a couple of penalty claims waved away by the referees. Kevan O'Rourke played a ball across the penalty area that was taken out of Craig Dowling's path by a sliding challenge from the Ukrainian captain. The Eastern European's did carve out a chance in the dying moments of the game as Ireland tired but they were denied by the woodwork and the sides ultimately finished level. Another performance the Irish amputees could be proud of. They had only once recorded a win against Ukraine and were unlucky not to break them down on a couple of occasions during this game.
Ireland 5-3 Germany
Ireland's 2 points meant that they had to win their final game against Germany to be in with any chance of winning the competition. Their chance was, however, dependent on the result of the final game of the competition between Poland and Ukraine. Despite creating chances early on Ireland were dealt a blow when Germany opened the scoring with a dubious goal. The German striker, unseen by the referees, touched the ball with his crutch past Justin Guiney in the Irish goal. Ireland reacted positively, however, Alan Wall's strike rattled the German crossbar, the German's failed to clear their lines and Kevin 'Butch' Cahillane tapped into an empty net to score his first ever international goal. The German's would take the lead for a second time, however, a defensive mistake allowed Germany to make it 1-2. Ireland finished the half the stronger side. David Saunders headed home from an Alan Wall corner to draw the sides level again, like Cahillane scoring his first ever goal for Ireland in the process. The second half would prove as frantic as the first but Ireland began the control the game better. Ireland took the lead through Craig Dowling, captaining the side on his final appearance before leaving for Canada in September. The Germans again failed to clear their lines from an Irish corner, Alan Wall slid a ball through to Dowling who finished powerfully. Ireland then made it 4-2. 'Butch' Cahillane whipped a dangerous ball into the German penalty area that deflected off a defender and found its way to the back of the net. The Germans struck back one final time. A defensive error followed by a deflection left Justin Guiney with no chance and Germany were back in it. Saunders stepped up again, however, to put the result beyond doubt. He picked the ball up in space and curled a delightful effort with the outside of his right boot past a flailing German keeper. Poland beat Ukraine 3-0 in the final game claiming the cup for the second year in a row but the Irish team know they ran the hosts close and can be very proud of a valiant effort in Poland over the weekend.
IAFA Squad, Podhale Amp Futbol Cup 2016:
James Conroy (C), Justin Guiney, Garry Hoey, Kevin Cahillane, David Saunders, Kevan O'Rourke, Alan Wall, Craig Dowling, Neil Hoey
Christy McElligott (Manager), Ross Ó Cionaoith (Coach), Alan Heary (Performance Coach), Daniel Boyle (Kit Man), Mark Barry (Physio)
In their debut season UL Sport Amputee FC were beaten to the EAFA League Title by Peterborough by the very narrowest of margins; goal difference. Oxford City FC hosted the final round of EAFA league fixtures on Saturday May 21st. 3 teams began the day with a chance of lifting the trophy. ULSAFC had it all to do, 2 points behind second placed Everton and 6 off leaders and reigning champions Peterborough. UL had to ensure that they secured all 9 points on offer and hope that other results would go their way. 3 fantastic performances meant that the Limerick side did all they possibly could and despite finishing on the same points as Peterborough (30), the English side's superior goal difference saw them pip UL to the title.
ULSAFC 3-0 Portsmouth
UL started the day with a convincing win over Portsmouth. 3 goals in the first half (Wall, Dowling and O'Rourke) saw the team get off to the best possible start on the day. Some excellent combination play between UL's strike partners Dowling and O'Rourke supported by hard working midfielders Wall and Saunders proved too much for the Portsmouth defence.
Arsenal 0-1 ULSAFC
Arsenal proved tough opposition for Limerick's amputees. The sides last meeting ended in a 1-1 draw and UL were looking to improve on their last performance against the Londoners. Dowling got the all important goal in the first half. An inspired performance by the Arsenal goalkeeper meant that despite their best efforts UL couldn't add to their tally. Dowling's strike proved sufficient, however, and UL secure their second 3 points of the day.
ULSAFC 1-0 Peterborough
UL began their last fixture of the day 3 points behind opponents Peterborough and 2 behind Everton, who had lost their last game of the season to Arsenal 0-1. Limerick needed all 3 points to leapfrog Everton and join Peterborough at the top of the table on 30 points. Five minutes in O'Rourke got the crucial goal, heading in from Wall's cross, to stun the reigning champions. UL defended resolutely and Conroy in the Limerick goal kept his third clean sheet of the day. They pushed for a second goal but the leaders stood firm. Despite taking all 3 points and finishing level with Peterborough, UL were unable to match the Posh's goal difference, a tally they had amassed over the course of the season.
An excellent showing from the Irish side in their debut season. The IAFA are incredibly proud of manager Simon Baker and the lads who put in a huge effort during the season travelling to England on 5 occasions. Next up for ULSAFC is the EAFA League Cup in June. Simon and the boys will be looking to get one over on Peterborough and signal their intent to challenge for the league title next season.
ULSAFC Player Stats - EAFA Premier League 2015/16
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.