Cork City form new amputee team
City will join both Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians in the National Amputee League and the Leesiders will host the first round of fixtures at the beginning of the New Year.
The SSE Airtricity League Premier Division title and Irish Daily Mail FAI Cup holders announced their intention to join this new initiative at a press launch in the Cork International Hotel on Tuesday evening.
And speaking at this event, the recently appoint Cork City General Manager Paul Wycherley welcomed it’s new squad of players to the club.
“I’d like to welcome the Cork City FC Amputee Team on board. When we look at the ethos of FORAS and the community side of the club, we truly are an all-inclusive club at Cork City FC,” said Wycherley.
“We are expanding our underage academy sides, and the women’s team are soon to be brought under FORAS.”
“We won’t stop there though, and want to try and be even more inclusive. It has been a great year for the club, and now we welcome the Amputee Team on board. They have our support, and we wish them success in their season ahead.”
Cork City senior’s assistant manager John Cotter was also in attendance at the launch and told the gathered group of players that they will be a great addition to the club.
“The club at the moment is thriving both on and off the field and I have no doubt you will be a great addition to have,” insisted Cotter.
“Our players have been a huge inspiration to kids and people of all ages around the City and county at this present moment and I have no doubt that you will be an inspiration to our players.
“Finally, I would like to say if there is anything you ever need, you can always call us and our door will always be open to you.”
Manager John Caulfield was unable to attend the event but was pleased with this step the club has taken.
“We are all delighted to welcome the lads on board, in what is another positive development for the club. We look forward to seeing how they get on, and we can assure them that our management and players will be right behind them,” added Caulfield.
FAI Football for All development officer Nick Harrison was one of the main pioneers for this new league and was quick to praise City’s attitude as they wasted no time in establishing an amputee team.
The first round of fixtures are set to take place at Turners Cross at the end of January pending the conclusion to the redevelopment of the Derrynane Stand, which collapsed during Storm Ophelia on the eve of Cork's league title-clinching match against Derry City in October.
Should Turner's Cross not be ready to welcome both Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians, the first games are likely to be switched to Midleton's Knockgriffin Park.
Either way, Harrison is already looking forward to the league's inauguration and is hoping it will spark the interest amongst other SSE Airtricity League sides.
“We are delighted, this is the next step for amputee football. This league that has been created now with Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Cork City means that players can now train locally, regularly and there’ll matches and competition opportunities for the players,” said Harrison.
“They were the three teams who reacted positively and said yes straight away but we are at the very, very early stages so the plans are to approach two or three more teams next season.
“For the moment, we have about 30 players interested but we would like to see that grow to 50 or 60 over the next couple of years but we have to be careful how quickly we grow the clubs we don’t want to water down what we have.
“We couldn’t be happier because the lads here have been so positive. We sat down with them the week after Cork City won the league and we didn’t even expect to get any reply to our emails or phone calls or anything.
“But we were very happy to host a meeting and within three or four weeks it was confirmed and we started to get things rolling to plan tonight and plan the season, we’re very happy.”
Harrison, who also managed the Irish Amputee team that recently competed in the European Championships in Turkey, added his belief that this new league will only help Ireland compete at such a level in the future.
“I’m the international manager for the Irish amputee team as well and we were in the European championship recently and the very small pool of players meant we didn’t have any strength and depth compared to other countries.
“We competed against the likes of Turkey, who have a professional league, and Poland who have a high number of clubs.
“So we need to grow the number of people we have playing the game and when you do that you will see the number of high ability players will come through.”
The Irish Amputee Football Association was founded in 2011 by Simon Baker and Chris McGelligot. Chris is overseeing the development of the game in Ireland and is hopeful that the number of clubs will grow quickly in the years to come.