CP Football Development Academy providing platform for future stars
Based at the AUL Complex in Clonshaugh, the club caters for girls and boys with CP and they currently have almost 80 active members. Chairperson and parent, Rachel Kavanagh spoke to FAI.ie about the CP Academy, her role and the return to play following the COVID-19 disrupted 2020 and 2021.
‘The CP Football Academy has a bit of a dual mandate. We have football players who want to just be part of a team, in that team setting, wanting to play recreational football. Then we also have a second purpose which is to help those players with potential where we provide a pathway and coaching to push them onto elite level and the international stage’ Rachel explained.
FAI President Gerry McAnaney joined FAI Director of Grassroots Ger McDerrmott at the recent presentation of the FAI Club Mark award. Rachel was thrilled with receiving the FAI Club Mark and the resulting benefits.
‘We were five years into our journey as a club and the Club Mark process allowed us to press pause and consider where we were with our structures and processes. Club Mark has allowed us to fill gaps where policies were perhaps not in place.
'As a smaller club, it has also allowed us to put structures in place early on so that as we grow which we will, we are growing on a strong and solid foundation.
'There has also been a lot of publicity for the club, which is great. Not only does it raise awareness of the club, it raises the awareness of the opportunities available for those with a disability to play football.’ Rachel added.
Rachel is thrilled that Ireland has so many talented international players who are inspiring the next generation but are also willing to give their time to the Academy.
‘Historically a lot of Irish international players would have come from mainstream football. The CP Academy is now helping to develop players alongside their peers. We have some of the best CP players in the world representing Ireland with the likes of Gary (Messett) and Dylan (Sheridan) involved. Like the ‘Can’t See It, Can’t Be It’ campaign, it applies equally in disability football.
‘We are extremely fortunate to have such players regularly come onto the pitch and have a kick about with some of our younger teams. They have all been fantastic in giving back their time even during their preparations for the World Cup in April.’
Rachel’s son Conor is playing at the CP Football Development Academy and the benefits go beyond the footballing side of the game.
‘People with a disability are on a journey that can be slightly different to that of people who don’t have a disability. But I think very often people don’t understand that the parents are also on journeys.
'A lot of time when parents are engaging on behalf of their child it is with services, the football allows them to take a back seat as it is all about the child. The side-line is usually full of chat with parents sharing their experiences which shouldn’t be forgotten.
'The Academy provides a safe and suitable environment for the players in a world that is not always built for people with disabilities. The common factor is that they all have CP and they are all so accepting of each other. It really is their club and the pressure leaves their shoulders when they step onto the pitch’ added Rachel.
Now that football is back nationwide, the Academy has seen the return of players from all corners of the country with players travelling from as far a field as West Cork, North Kerry, Limerick, Galway and Wexford.
Rachel acknowledged the challenges during the restriction and spoke of the joy following the safe return to play.
‘Anytime restrictions were lifted, we put all our protocols in place and people were unbelievably happy to come back. With CP, activity is important as it helps manage the effects of CP and keep kids and young adults mobile. But it has been great more than just physically but mentally and emotionally seeing the kids and young adults to reconnect which has been absolutely amazing to see.’
The CP Football Development Academy is actively seeking new members with football for girls and boys aged seven and above. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.