Ireland’s Paralympic football team suffered a heavy defeat to the top ranked team in the world Russia in their opening group game at the Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships in St George’s Park in the UK this evening. The Russian side put in a hugely impressive performance and looked every bit the tournament favourites on this performance playing at a relentless intensity and phenomenal pace. Ireland’s only goal of the game was scored inside the first ten minutes by Gary Messett, who has competed at two previous Paralympic Games.
As second seeds in their group Ireland will look to move on from this tough opener when they face Australia in their second group game at 1pm on Thursday (18th June). These World Championships are the only chance the Irish team have to secure a precious qualifying spot at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Should the Irish team reach the quarter-finals they can be almost certain of a qualification place.
Speaking after the game Irish team manager Barry Ferguson said; “We always knew this was going to be a huge test as it proved to be. They’re the number one seed in the group, and in the tournament. Obviously no one likes to concede as many as we did today but there were positives we’ll take away. They are a fantastic team and they are at the level we strive to reach. We are really looking forward to the challenge Australia will bring on Thursday.”
The Russians got off to the perfect start with the opening goal after only a couple of minutes. The Irish side responded in fine style with an unbelievable strike from two time Paralympian Gary Messett. However almost midway through the first half the Russians regained the lead going 2-1 up, making it three a minute later. The Irish had their best spell of that half approaching the 25 minute mark where they held plenty of the possession and Daragh Snell was unlucky not to get on the end of a ball on the back post.
The opening period of the second half saw almost fifteen minutes of sustained pressure from the Russians which the Irish defended solidly until the breakthrough came on 44 minutes as they went 4-1 up. With Irish captain Luke Evans and goalscorer Gary Messett having been replaced at the start of the half the Irish team endured a tough closing period to the game seeing Russia score another four before the final whistle.
Irish Schedule & Results
Tuesday June 16th Ireland 1-8 Russia, Irish goalscorer – Gary Messett
Thursday June 18th at 1pm Ireland v Australia
Saturday June 20th at 1pm Ireland v Portugal
Quarter-finals take place on June 24th