Ireland’s Cerebral Palsy Football Team heading to Rio 2016 Paralympics after victory over Portuguese
Ireland secure place in quarter-final of the World Championships
RESULT: IRELAND 8:0 PORTUGAL
Ireland’s Cerebral Palsy Football Team today almost assured qualification for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro ending four years of hurt after missing out by one place for London 2012. At the World Championships at St. George’s Park in England this afternoon, the Irish team knew that victory over the Portguese team coupled with a favourable result in the other match in the pool would secure the precious Rio spot for Barry Ferguson’s side. The Irish delivered a comprehensive 8:0 victory over the Portuguese while the Russian Team secured top place in the group with a 5:0 win over Australia.
Following the win, Team Manager Barry Ferguson expressed his delight with the team’s performance:
“The team played with real confidence today despite the natural anxiety the enormity of the occasion would bring. It was their best performance of the tournament so far. With Rio, our ultimate goal, now in the bag we can look forward to the quarter-finals with confidence and secure as high a final placing as possible over the next few games.”
I’d like to commend all the players, coaching and support staff for their commitment over the last few months to ensure we reached our goal today.”
Team Captain, Luke Evans was thrilled with the result: “The primary goal this tournament was to secure Rio qualification. Having been to Beijing 2008, missing London 2012 really hurt me and the senior players. We’ve put that right today and can look forward with confidence to the rest of the World Championships and then make a real effort to perform at the highest level in Rio next year. Words can’t describe how good this feels.”
The Irish team made an explosive start with Bray’s Gary Messett taking it to the Portuguese from the first whistle. His influence was immediate when he scored the opening goal within the first minute. He followed with a sweet strike three minutes later to make it 2:0 with Dillon Sheridan opening his account from the restart leaving Ireland with an unassailable 3:0 lead after only four minutes.
Somewhat overawed by the dynamic Irish blitz the Portuguese played their way into the game carving out a number of half chances with one drawing a superb point blank save low to his left from the Irish keeper Simon L’Estrange. The Irish displayed a fast paced and crisp passing game with further goals inevitable. Dillon Sheridan from Ballyfermot United secured his hat-trick with two further strikes in the 10th and 12th minutes putting the Irish 5:0 ahead.
With the outcome of the game decided and the Russian team leading comfortably against Australia the Irish continued with some neat interplay and assured passing movements. Before the end of the half, one of Ireland’s finest team moves was put home by a close range header from Daragh Snell. On the stroke of half-time man-of-the-match Dillon Sheridan popped up with his 4th goal to end the half 7:0 ahead.
With the result secured and the focus shifting to Wednesday’s quarter-final, the relentless pace of the first half subsided somewhat, nevertheless the Irish continued to create numerous chances particularly with the trickery of half time substitute Ryan Nolan. The team drove forward but struggled to get past the Portuguese keeper. Eventually the pressure told with the Irish securing a penalty for a handball in the area. Team Captain Luke Evans stepped up and converted the rebound from a fine save to complete the 8:0 victory for the boys in green.
With today’s games completing Group B, Ireland finished in second place behind the Russians. Ireland will play the winners of tonight’s match between Ukraine and England in the quarter-finals at 7pm on the 24th June.
Barring a highly unlikely series of results for the remainder of this tournament and at the Para Panamerican Games in Toronto in August, the Irish Team have secured their place at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.