Blind Team set for European qualifiers
Preparations for these key games have been ongoing since last December with regular training sessions held on the National Sports Campus and assistant coach Nick Harrison feels his team have taken huge strides in their development.
Considering this will be the first time that the Ireland team have competed internationally, they are aiming high ahead of their Group A battles with Albania, Georgia and Romania.
If Ireland can finish as one of the top two teams in their group then they will qualify for the European Championships, which will be held in Germany in August. The games kicks off on April 4.
"This is Ireland's first journey into full international Blind Football competition. The players and the coaching team want to learn as much as possible, and hopefully cause an upset or two along the way," said Harrison.
"It's a Paralympic sport and played in over 50 countries worldwide and at the top level it is played at a tremendous speed. In Ireland, we've been developing the game steadily for five years and we now have regional training centres in Dublin, Cork and Sligo.
"For the players travelling, it's a dream come true to compete in these qualifiers and play the game they love. It seemed that Ireland would never be able to generate enough players to compete internationally, but the addition of a few extra players in the last year has given everyone the opportunity to push on.
"There are some young children playing in our regional centres, so hopefully this current team can inspire them to keep training and improving in the hope of one day representing their country."
Harrison insists that new players and coaches are always welcome to take part and further information they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Ireland Blind Squad
Darren McGarry, Kevin Kelly, Matthew Kearney, Darragh Stakelum, John Doherty, Paul Costello, Donnacha McCarthy
Blind Football is a 5v5 game played on a hard surface, 20m x 40m, with kick-boards on both sides of the pitch. The ball used contains ball bearings to make a noise and give the players a chance to know where it is.
All four outfield players wear blind eye patches and blindfolds to ensure no light gets in. The goalkeeper is fully sighted. Additionally, three coaches are allowed to speak with players during a game to provide direction and advice.