CP World Cup: Ireland defeated but secure best ever finish
There was heartbreak in additional time for Ireland in Argentina as they went down 3-2 to the USA in the 5th/6th play-off. This young Irish side went into the game knowing whatever the result they would finish the highest any Irish Cerebral Palsy squad has done in past World Championships.
They faced a formidable American side full of strength, power and confidence after beating Brazil in the previous round. The game started tentatively with both sides conservative in their approach but the game exploded to life in the 7thminute when America’s Cameron DeLillo opened the scoring with a sweet chip over Irish keeper Jimmy Naughton.
The Irish immediately responded with Gary Messett and Dillon Sheridan testing the American keeper in quick succession and controlled the game for the rest of the half. Their reward came in the 22nd minute when captain Gary Messett broke down the right side taking on two players and coming in at a tight angle to shoot into the top corner giving Ireland the equaliser. The teams went in 1-1 at half-time with the game on a knife edge.
Head Coach Paul Breen made one change at half time bringing on Carl McKee to replace Peter Cotter and pushing Mark Barry into left side of midfield. Ireland began the second half positively and immediately put pressure on the Americans resulting in Ireland and tournament top scorer Dillon Sheridan winning the ball and transitioning into an Irish attack beating 3 players and slotting home with a low left foot drive to give Ireland the lead.
The game slipped into four minutes of injury time with Ireland's fingers on that 5th place finish, but unfortunately it was not to be as America scored in the 61st and 63rd minute to give them the victory. This Irish team were not only the youngest team in the tournament but are also the youngest Irish Cerebral Palsy squad to compete at any major championships and they can keep their heads high knowing they have done their country, management team and family and friends proud over the past three weeks. With the teams average age 21 the future is very bright and the FAI will continue to recruit young exciting players with Cerebral Palsy to ensure this team continues to develop the European Championships in Holland next July.
Irish Head Coach Paul Breen summed up the teams achievement in his post-match comments. “We are very disappointed to lose the game in the manner that we did and there is a lot of learning for the players from this game. We just ran out of steam in the end with 6 games in 11 days and we lost our rest day in middle of the tournament due to our first game being called off, which other teams benefited from. The players can still hold their heads high after this tournament, learn from it and continue to develop. Although I am disappointed with the result I am immensely proud of this group of players and how they have performed in the tournament overall and I know they have done their country, family, friends and clubs proud. I am confident we will continue to improve.”