On Wednesday morning, just hours after Stephen Kenny’s side secured UEFA Nations League B status with a dramatic win over Armenia, a contingent of Ireland flew to Turkey where they will take part in the Amputee World Cup.
Despite a slight delay in their flight from Dublin Airport, Ireland’s preparations for the tournament have gone well, according to manager Christy McElligott, who will lead his country to their third World Cup.
After finishing 13th at the last WAFF World Championships in Mexico in 2018, the boys in green are looking to improve on that performance and finish in the top ten.
But the team could have been given a better chance of achieving that goal.
Ireland travel to the finals in Istanbul without a team sponsor and were only able to travel to Turkey a few days before kick-off thanks to the pooling of individual sponsors.
“Being in the top 10 would give us a lot of reassurance (if I may say the word) in the sense that it’s always nice to be able to say that we’re one of the 10 when we get to the door of People who are looking for sponsors are the best teams in the world,” admits McElligott.
“We were fortunate that one of the players who is also on the committee has been working really hard over the past few weeks and got the idea to see if there are any companies out there that would like to sponsor a single player or a Member of the coaching team.
“That helped us enormously because it gave us the opportunity to fly to Turkey a little earlier and have two and a half days more to prepare properly, get used to the heat and do some training sessions.”
Ireland have been drawn in Group D, where they first meet Morocco on Saturday before then meeting Iran on Sunday and Brazil on Monday, with more games to follow – depending on the nature of the results – before the tournament concludes on the 9th October.
McElligott remains confident – actually quite adamant – that when Irish players take to the pitch they will do absolutely anything to succeed for their country in a sport that has given them all another opportunity to do so , what you love.
“It’s not that we’re all amputees, but every single one of us has a passion for the sport,” he added.
“The players are fantastic – fantastic individuals and fantastic athletes – and for me it’s a special bond that we have together.
“We want to play football and be successful. We constantly remind ourselves that we are athletes before we are amputees.
“You might see the fact that we have a leg or an arm, but the players themselves classify themselves primarily as athletes.
“When the guys get together, they never really talk about what happened to them, even when they first meet.
“It’s only when they form friendships that they usually gain something about their past.
“It’s not one of those situations where it becomes a rehab thing where we come as a group and express how we’re feeling and all those things. They are athletes with goals and goals that they want to achieve.
“I love football, everyone who plays it loves it and that brings me a lot closer to the mainstream game and how you felt playing mainstream football.
“I am very confident that we have put the time and effort into it. I’m very confident that the players’ skills are there.
“Football is a fun game, sometimes you never get what you deserve in games, but we will do well.
“We’ve prepared well, we know the opponent’s weaknesses and hopefully we can influence that.”
Do you want to pressure them?
“Ha ha, we’ll put some pressure on them,” McElligott concludes.
Now that they have qualified for the World Cup, there is no doubt that they will compete starting Saturday.
*All matches will be streamed live on the Irish Amputee Football Association Facebook page and sponsorship is still possible by contacting us by email at [email protected] or by phone on 087 649 6711.