Irish team bidding for a place at Blind Football Euros - here's what you need to know

Irish team bidding for a place at Blind Football Euros - here's what you need to know
Ireland Blind Squad: Darren McGarry, Kevin Kelly, Matthew Kearney, Darragh Stakelum, John Doherty, Paul Costello, Donnacha McCarthy

An Irish team are attempting to secure a place at the 2017 IBSA Blind Football European Championships - and the qualifiers are on this week.

It will be the first time that the Ireland team have competed internationally and they travel to Romania to take on Albania, Georgia and Romania in Group A,

The team has been preparing since December, training at the National Sports Campus in Blanchardstown.

Blind Football is a 5-a-side game played on a hard surface with kick-boards on both sides of the pitch.

The ball used contains ball bearings to make a noise let the players know where it is.

All four outfield players wear blind eye patches and blindfolds to ensure no light gets in. Three coaches are allowed to speak to their players during a game to provide direction and advice.

The goalkeeper is fully sighted.

In order to qualify for the European Championships, taking place in Germany in August, Ireland must finish as one of the top two teams in their group.

"This is Ireland's first journey into full international Blind Football competition. The players and the coaching team want to learn as much as possible, and hopefully cause an upset or two along the way," said head coach Nick Harrison.

"It's a Paralympic sport and played in over 50 countries worldwide and at the top level it is played at a tremendous speed. In Ireland, we've been developing the game steadily for five years and we now have regional training centres in Dublin, Cork and Sligo.

"For the players travelling, it's a dream come true to compete in these qualifiers and play the game they love.

"There are some young children playing in our regional centres, so hopefully this current team can inspire them to keep training and improving in the hope of one day representing their country."

Harrison is keen to welcome any new players and coaches who would like to take part - he can be contacted at nick.harrison@fai.ie.

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