The Irish team lineup for the national anthem. IAFA Facebook
No Limits

An evening of footballing inspiration -- my sporting moment of 2014

An evening of watching football like I’d never seen it before.

IT’S NOT OFTEN you get to spend an evening in the Aviva Stadium with unlimited access to the pitch, tunnel area, dressing rooms and anywhere else you can think of. I was lucky enough to have the privilege to do so back in September and was even luckier to be able to enjoy the privilege with the most inspirational group of people I’ve ever met.

The Irish Amputee Football Team made their World Cup debut in Mexico this year after two years of relentless, tireless work carried out by chairman and founder Simon Baker, team manager Christy McElligott and FAI Football For All National Co-ordinator Oisín Jordan.

Although it was somewhat of a reality check at the World Cup (they lost four games, drew one and won one) Ireland is now an established nation in amputee football with a world ranking of 18th. What seemed like a pipe-dream only a matter of years ago is now very much a reality with a plan in place to host the 2016 World Cup.

Spending the evening with the amputee team came about thanks to the team’s goalkeeper, James ‘Jack’ Conroy.

I play football with Jack for Johnstown FC where he is our captain and centre-back. He only got involved with the amputee team last year and has now represented his country at a World Cup and has an official Irish cap to prove it. He’s since come back to the harsh reality of the Meath and District League Reserve Division B.

Patrick Butler / Vimeo

It’s an incredible story that deserves to be told. Before going to the Aviva I’d watched clips of amputee football on YouTube but had never seen it in the flesh. On video it’s an amazing spectacle, in the flesh it absolutely blows you away.

What stood out for me was watching the team warm-up in the indoor astro turf area located at the back of the Aviva Stadium dressing rooms. All the players were doing was a simple passing drill but it was the precision of the passes, the deftness of touch and the speed at which the players moved, despite being on crutches, that was incredible.

Everyone involved is keen to ensure that they are seen, not as an “ah bless” story, but as a serious football team. It’s very easy, and probably natural, to initially think of the group as lads looking to exercise and simply get some enjoyment from playing football. It’s not until you actually see them in action that you realise that they are a talented, competitive bunch.

A privilege to spend time with and a privilege to watch, the Irish Amputee Team will only continue to grow.

No limits – an evening with the Irish amputee team

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