Harrison announces Ireland squad for European Nations Cup
IRELAND powerchair football head coach Nick Harrison as announced his squad for the inaugural European Nations Cup at the University of Limerick next week.
Harrison's squad of eight includes five members of Midlands United PFC and the Irish coach believes his national team charges are ready to optimise home support in this prestigious tournament.
"We've been training since January so it's been a long process. We've gotten together ten different occasions so we're well prepared," said Harrison.
"It would be nice to think we can win it but we're in a stage of development. We finished ninth in the World Cup three years ago and some of the teams will have that bit of an edge that we're trying to counter.
"Midlands United PFC are the Irish champions and competed in Europe last year so they know the higher level. We've got experience with Keith Hayes who has competed in the Paralympics and we have players who were involved in the previous World Cup too so they will also have that experience to call upon.
"France will probably be favourites for the tournament. The Irish referees have been working with us too so we're well-tuned into the rules. We have worked on our set-pieces and tactics and the players have also worked with sports psychologists from University of Limerick so we'd like to think we'll be as prepared as possible."
Team captain Aoife McNicholl is excited about the forthcoming tournament as Ireland look to make home advantage count.
"It's an honour to represent your country on the pitch. To hear the crowd chanting in support, the rush of adrenaline you get when you enter the pitch, to hear your national anthem being played for you. To be honest it's a surreal experience and I'm going to try and enjoy every minute of it," said Aoife.
"Powerchair football is the only sport I can actively take part in due to my disability. I think that's why it means so much to me. I can just go out there and play soccer and forget about everything else. I love the speed, intensity and skill of the game, the camaraderie between team mates and the competitiveness between opposing teams. At the end of the day everyone wants to win!"
The inaugural European Nations Cup promises to be an exciting event with the hosts Ireland taking on Belgium, France, England, Denmark, and Switzerland at the University of Limerick over four days.
The tournament will commence following a spectacular opening ceremony on Thursday July 17 (6pm). The opening game of the tournament sees Ireland meet Switzerland at 7.30pm.
You will get a flavour of the type of action the tournament will produce by watching this promotional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b80m3LF6W_4.
The Irish team and the tournament can also be followed on Twitter at @irishpowerchair #realgameofthrones. Admission to the tournament is free.
Thomas Donagher (Midlands United PFC)
A native of Kinnitty, Co Offaly, and aged 13, Thomas is an exciting addition to the Irish squad. He has worked hard over the past three years to really excel in powerchair football. He was captain of the Ireland U16's
Powerchair international team and was top goal scorer in Ireland for 2013-14 Season.
Emer O'Sullivan (Midlands United PFC)
Emer, from Portlaoise, is 16 years old and has progressed from representing Ireland at U16 and U18 level. Outside of sport Emer has excelled academically and received Transition Year Portfolio of the Year for 2014 and a Bronze Gaisce Medal.
Patrick Flanagan (DCU Storm)
Patrick is originally from Kerry but plays and studies at Dublin City Univeristy. The 22-year-old has played powerchair football for 11 years and participated in the first ever powerchair football event in Ireland in July 2003. He has excelled in 1v1 competition in AIPF-FAI tournaments before and outside of the game he has various interests including a stint with Jongleurs Comedy Club in 2008.
Emmet Daly (Midlands United PFC)
Emmet is 29 and comes from Kilcormac, Co Offaly. He has played powerchair football since 2009 and participated in the World Cup 2011 and European Club Championship 2013, both of which took place in Paris. Amongst his achievements outside of the game are learning to drive a car.
Keith Hayes (DCU Storm)
Keith now resides in Bray, Co Wicklow, but is from Bunclody, Co Wexford. At 38 he is one of the more experienced members of the squad and has played the game since 2009. Another player who appeared for Ireland at the World Cup in 2011 in France. Has also captained the Boccia Ireland team and won gold, silver and bronze medals for Ireland at two Paralympics games.
Neil Sheehan (Midlands United PFC)
Another member of the Midlands United PFC team to make the national squad, the Tullamore native is aged 17 and is a key part of the Ireland set-up. He started playing the game as a ten year old and went on to captaining Ireland's U18 team in Paris in 2013.
Thomas Winters (Parkvilla)
From Trim, Co Meath, Thomas is one of the key players for the Parkvilla team. Aged 17, he is in his fourth year in powerchair football and his progress has been seen him force his way into the national set-up.
Aoife McNicholl (Midlands United PFC)
Aoife from Portlaoise has been playing powerchair football for 11 years now and the 19-year-old is the captain of the Irish squad. She showed her class when scoring a hat-trick for Ireland against Switzerland in the FIPFA World Cup in 2011. She is currently studying psychology at DCU.
Thursday, July 17
Ireland v Switzerland, University of Limerick (7.30pm)
Friday, July 18
Ireland v Denmark, University of Limerick (11.45am)
Ireland v France, University of Limerick (6pm)
Saturday, July 19
Ireland v England, University of Limerick (1.15pm)
Ireland v Belgium, University of Limerick (3.45pm)
Sunday, July 20
Final, University of Limerick (3pm)