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'This is an opportunity for someone to wear the green jersey and travel the world'

Ireland CP football manager Barry Ferguson is hoping to unearth new talent before the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.

Barry Ferguson lifts the cup Ferguson lifting the FAI Cup trophy with Longford Town back in 2004. Source: INPHO

AS A PLAYER, Barry Ferguson played in England at Coventry City and was a two-time FAI Cup winner with Longford Town.

The former defender also lined out alongside the likes of Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Richard Sadlier in Brian Kerr’s U20 side at the Fifa World Youth Championships back in 1999.

Now the 36-year-old is preparing to lead an Irish team into next year’s Paralympic Games in Brazil with the hope of claiming a medal.

A seven-a-side game, those who have Cerebral Palsy (CP), an acquired brain injury or have suffered a stroke in the past are eligible to compete in CP football.

Ferguson became aware of the sport through a friend, coach Derek Glynn, and successfully applied for the Ireland job.

It proved a good decision and he’s been thrilled with how things have gone so far — even if he would like to have more time with his players to compete with the top teams in the world.

“It has been brilliant and I’ve really enjoyed it so far,” Ferguson told The42.

“You’re managing an international team but with the support services that are needed you are also working with physiologists, physiotherapists and sport psychologists.

“So it was just a great opportunity to get involved and try and learn as much as I can.

“It has been a little bit frustrating because the lads are only getting in to train with us once a week but if you compare us to other international managers, they would probably be happy to see their players once a week.”

Back in June, the 14-man squad travelled to St George’s Park to compete in the Cerebral Palsy World Championships and earned a sixth-place after losing out to the host nation in a play-off.

“It was a really good learning experience for me to sit down and put plans together to go into a football tournament while working out how to be best prepared,” he says.

You’re going into the world championships and trying to compete with some countries who are full-time.

“We’re fifth in the world and fourth in Europe but all the other teams above us train every day of the week. So we’re punching above our weight in that regard.”


Source: Football Association of Ireland/Vimeo

With next summer’s Paralympics Games just around the corner, Ferguson is now on the hunt for fresh blood.

On 12 December, trials will be held at the FAI’s National Training Centre (12pm) with Ireland looking to unearth new talent as it could make all the difference in Rio.

“There has to be hundreds of Irish people out there who have CP and either nobody knows about it or they don’t want anyone to know about it, which is fine as well,” he adds.

“But this is an opportunity for someone to potentially wear the green jersey and travel the world for the next 10 or 15 years and work with all the services such as athlete and lifestyle support.

“It’s a massive chance for players to get involved so we’re hoping they hear about it and come along or somebody knows somebody who is eligible and informs them.

If we were to get even one or two players out of it, that would be a massive bonus.

“We recently came across a player up in Drogheda who has trained in the last couple of weeks. It has given everyone such a big lift as we are so close to pushing on and potentially getting a medal in Rio.

“For us to medal, we have to be 100% on our game for the whole tournament and expect other teams to drop below their level but with the addition of a couple of players that could be the difference.”

Paralympic team poster

More information on CP football and the trial day can be found here and you can email paralympicfootball@fai.ie with any queries

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Ben Blake

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