Amputee football league launches

by James Hendicott

IRELAND’S amputee football league will get underway in late February with the FAI’s Christy McElligott keen to invite further players to take part.
The first season will open with Bohemians, Shamrock Rovers and Cork City as the three teams.
Ireland has had an international amputee football team for sometime, and last year that team – in the form of a club side – travelled regularly to the UK to compete in their league, in the absence of an Irish offering. That was an expensive undertaking and didn’t encourage more players to get involved.
McElligott – formerly a St Patrick’s Athletic and Ballymun United player who lost his leg shortly after winning the FAI Junior Cup with United – hopes the new tournament will draw in new players and expand competition for the international side.
In amputee football, all outfield players play with crutches, having either had a leg amputated, or been born without one. The crutches are treated much like hands and playing the ball with them is considered a handball except where accidental. Arm amputees are incorporated into the game as goalkeepers and, at international level, the game is seven-a-side.
“We’ve spread the international players across the new teams to even things up,” McElligott tells us. “We’ll start off with the three teams, playing a series of round robin games at each of their home grounds. I have 40 players on my database who might get involved, so we could expand quickly. If we do, I hope to have two tiers.”
“The League of Ireland clubs have been great in really embracing the idea, and they could easily end up with two teams each, one in each of those two tiers. That would help with bringing in people, and they can start playing at a lower level, away from the international players.
“While we don’t need international players for Ireland at the moment, I think it’s very important that the current players are put under a bit of pressure. They might be a bit comfortable with their places at the moment.
“This will add to competition. We’ll play a league with a series of round robin games to start with, at the different venues – Dublin, Cork, then Dublin again – and when the league comes to an end, we’ll run a cup tournament, too, and then have a couple of months off. That’s the plan.”
“I’ve always said football is the best medicine,” McElligott concludes. With an entirely new league about to unroll under the stewardship of a passionate ex-professional player and amputee, it’s clear he believes it.”
You can get in touch with the Irish amputee football team through their website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

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