Gary Messett is dreaming of making history in the next fortnight at the 2018 IFCPF European Championships in the Netherlands.
The Wicklow midfielder captains the Republic of Ireland CP team at this year’s tournament, and has already set his sights on reaching the semi-final stages.
With ten teams taking part in the tournament, Ireland will play four games in Group A, hoping to finish in the top-two.
After a sixth place finish in last year’s World Championships, Messett feels the team can improve on that performance in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been given a favourable draw and were looking forward to getting to the Netherlands. There will be some tough games, but if we do our jobs and do and what we have to do, we will get the results and hopefully go from there.
This year’s European Championships marks the end of a three-year cycle for Paul Breen’s team after trips to South America for the Paralympics and World Championships.
Messett was involved in both of those trips and he feels this is the strongest squad of the three.
“2016 was a poor year for us as a group. We didn’t perform. A new management team came in last year, and it was a huge success. We have a young squad, and everyone wants to get in that starting seven.
Some of the CP squad, including Messett plays the 11-a-side format. He claims there are subtle differences between that and the 7-a-side game he plays with Ireland’s CP team.
“I dont run as much in the 11-a-side game. Even though CP games are 30 minutes less, I find I run far more with less players on the pitch.
“I’ve trained with able-bodied players since I was 7. Players like myself and Dillon Sheridan play the 11-a-side game regularly. By playing football weekly, with able-bodied players it proven hugely beneficial.
With games against Denmark, Germany, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands to come, the midfielder has his eyes set on a semi-final.
“We’re in a good mindset of what we want to achieve in the Netherlands. Once the team come together we have a brilliant chance of getting a medal.
2018 has been a year of mixed emotions for the 31-year-old. In March, the Arklow Town player was named the FAI Football For All International Player of the Year. Last month, his father Bobby died tragically.
“I lost my father a month and a half ago. All my family are coming over to support me though. To be able to captain the team will be a great honour. I’m hoping to do the best I can for my team, my family and my friends.”
Ireland’s campaign begins on July 25th with a game against Denmark in the KNVB Campus in Zeist.
Ireland’s Cerebral Palsy team is co-funded by the FAI, Paralympics Ireland and Sport Ireland.
Article courtesy of Football Association of Ireland