The Irish Paralympic football team were defeated 2-0 by hosts England this evening in the 5th/6th place play-off at the 2015 Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships, in St. George’s Park. In what was an entertaining game of 7-a-side Football two great individual goals from the home side sealed the win.
The result sees Gerard Glynn’s Irish side take sixth place overall at these Championships but most importantly secure themselves a much coveted qualification place at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Ireland missed out on qualification for the London 2012 Paralympic Games by just one spot so to secure a place on the plane to the eight team tournament for 2016 is an achievement that cannot be understated.
Speaking about the game this evening Irish manager Barry Ferguson said: “We’re bitterly disappointed with the result tonight but I felt the better team won the game. We didn’t keep the ball as well as we should have and England were better than us.”
However, reflecting on the tournament as a whole he said: “Overall our sole goal coming to this tournament was to qualify for the Rio Paralympics and we’re delighted to have done that. We have been able to get some young players invaluable experience of playing in such a major tournament and that can only be of great benefit and we prepare for Rio and what lies ahead.”
The first half got underway at a frantic pace with the play constantly switching from end to end. England showed great pace and were pushing a lot of their ball down the left hand channel. Ireland’s most capped player on this team; defender Joe Markey, who was winning his seventy-first cap tonight was kept busy marshalling the disciplined Irish defence alongside captain Luke Evans.
Arguably Ireland’s best chance of the half came on ten minutes when Gary Messett made a great individual run all the way through the middle only to see his eventual shot well held by the England keeper. A moment of individual brilliance saw England take the lead when Matt Crossen ran across the Irish box and chipped the ball in with the outside of his right foot on twenty seven minutes.
Both sides exchanged real chances in the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Again Gary Messett, who won his seventieth Irish cap today, burst through the middle and saw a great strike spilled by the English keeper but gathered up again just before it could cross the line. His counterpart Simon L’Estrange pulled off his save of the game on forty two minutes when Jake Brown was unmarked in a one on one in the Irish box.
It was with nine minutes to go that England stretched their lead. England were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Irish box after Joe Markey was given what looked to be a harsh yellow card. The England captain struck the ball perfectly to give L’Estrange no chance and see it go high into the top corner. Ireland weren’t without a handful of chances in the closing minutes, including ones from Sheridan and Moran but the hosts just held out for the victory.
Favourites, and reigning Paralympic champions Russia face European Champions Ukraine in tomorrow’s final at 3pm. Beforehand Brazil take on the Netherlands to decide third and fourth spot. Ireland’s newly qualified Paralympic football team return home on Monday morning.