Ireland Amputee Team set for EAFF European Championship
This is the second edition of the tournament with games taking place in Krakow from September 12th - 19th. Christy McElligott's side have been drawn in Group C and will face Belgium, Germany and Russia as they look to improve on their sixth-place finish at the 2017 Championships. A top six finish would secure Ireland a place at the 2022 World Cup in Turkey.
Goalkeeper and captain James Conroy feels well prepared despite the Championships being delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Every Saturday morning we do a Zoom session together, we get out a few times a week and we are training with our clubs. Everyone is looking forward to getting back playing matches, it is what we do best."
A number of counties are represented in the 13-man squad with many players featuring in the Irish Amputee Football National League."I play with Bohemians, we won the league last year which was great but it is a great mix. Ourselves Shamrock Rovers and Cork City are great rivals on the pitch but great friends off it.
"We've lads from Donegal to Kerry and everywhere in-between. A lot of Dublin lads, I'm from Meath myself, Dundalk, Limerick so all over really. We have a Kerryman who actually lives in Newcastle, he plays over there and commutes home every weekend we have training, it's a great effort." Conroy added.
Conroy is one of the more experienced members of the team, representing Ireland at his fourth major tournament and spoke about his pride in wearing the green jersey. "I've been blessed to travel the world with Ireland. Amputee football landed on my lap in a way, I was standing at a bus stop and Christy McElligott saw me and stopped to approach me to play back in 2013. I gave it a go and haven't looked back. My only regret is I didn't find it sooner.
"I was lucky enough in 2018 to captain the team at the World Cup, it's a massive honour and I get very emotional when I talk about it to be honest. Playing for your country is one thing but leading the lads out is a huge honour and my family and friends are all so proud of me."
Striker James Boyle who plays for Cork City (on loan from Bohemians) has seen huge progress in the amputee game in Ireland over the past 10 years. "I've been involved since the very start in 2011 and the first training session was in Mountview, Blanchardstown and I have been with the team ever since.
"As an organisation we have progressed over the years and in terms of playing, technically and ability wise, some of the players have gotten a lot better over the past couple of years."
Boyle, who hails from Dungloe, Co. Donegal, is living a lifelong dream and hopes the side can do well over the coming weeks. "There is a photo back home of me in an Ireland jersey on crutches at six years of age and every lad dreams of playing for his country no matter what age group or what level it is. Hopefully we can go into these European Championships and do the country proud."
EAFF European Championship 2021 Group Games
- Monday, September 13 | Belgium v Ireland | KO 09:00
- Tuesday, September 14 | Ireland v Germany | KO 12:00
- Wednesday, September 15 | Russia v Ireland | KO 13:30
Games will be streamed on the EAFF Facebook - here