Europe awaits for Rovers

by Dave Donnelly
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Shamrock Rovers were presented with the National Amputee Football League trophy in Ballymun Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon.

The Tallaght club had already sealed the league title last month after losing just two games all season heading into the penultimate round of matches.

Draws against Bohemians and Cork City in Ballymun saw the Hoops celebrate a hard-earned double, having lifted the Sean McCaffrey Foundation Cup earlier in the season.

“It was fantastic and brilliant for the lads because they’d worked so hard,” coach Stuart McSweeney told the Dublin Gazette.

“Behind the scenes, what people don’t see, they get on their crutches for an hour and a half every single week training.

“What’s really pleasing is that a lot of what we’ve done during the season, in terms of scoring goals, has been practiced on the training ground.

“It’s a credit to the lads for the consistent effort. It’s magical for the guys.”
McSweeney is a full-time youth development officer at Shamrock Rovers and his work with the amputee team is part of the club’s commitment to providing football for all.

Rovers finished a disappointing third in the inaugural season of the amputee league last season but consistency has been the key this season as they headed the table from the beginning.

A penalty shoot-out defeat to bitter rivals Bohemians in the League Cup final denied them a first-ever treble, but the season as a whole has been an unqualified success.

“Christy [McElligot] is obviously our most decorated player, but what makes this all the more special is we’ve got four guys in our squad who had never played the game until last season.

“Every time they play against Bohemians, they come up against five internationals. When they play against Cork, they come up against five internationals.

“We’ve a lot of players who have only come into the game recently, and it’s fantastic for them to do it because their improvement has been incredible.”

The league win means Rovers will travel to the take part in the Champions League in April, which is likely to take place in Turkey or Russia, where amputee football is a professional sport.

Turkey are the current European champions while the Turkish champions, Ortotek, won the first-ever Champions League in Tbilisi last year (Cork City finished fourth).

“We need to start preparing for Champions League football. We’ll play against some professional teams, so we really need to try and up our game again.

“We move from what we play in Ireland, five-a-side, to seven-a-side.

“It will be a big ask for us, so there’s no let-up. We will get straight into training for Champions League football.

“The likes of Galatasaray from Turkey will definitely be there. The Turkish teams will be the favourites because they’re professional outfits and are really good at international level.”

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