By Alan Finn
A football match with a difference took place in Sligo last week when the Irish amputee football team visited Sligo.
The national side visited the Mercy College in recognition of the award-winning “Comfy Crutch”, a modified cover which relieves pressure on the hands of the user, designed by students Leah Kelly and Melissa Cox.
The duo were later joined by a varied gathering of sports stars from Sligo, including representatives from Sligo Rovers, Sligo GAA, IT Sligo and students and faculty of the Mercy College in a match against the amputee team.
In interest of a fair game, the two-legged team put their first touch, passing and shooting to the ultimate test as they were limited to the use of just one foot.
The game proved to be both entertaining and educational as the amputee team displayed a high level of ability and the speed of the game differs very little from any other.
Chris McEligott, coach for the national amputee team, wants more and more people to change their perception of disabled athletes and is confident that those who watched the game will have only seen his team as athletes at the top of their game.
“We want to get away from that disability tag, we don’t want to be labelled as that, we want to be seen as athletes and I think from a disability point of of view, for us it actually about ability and being able to play football at a high level and we want people to take that concept away when they see us play.”
Chris was delighted to pit his men against some of Sligo’s brightest sports stars in a game which provided a new challenge for both sets of players.
“For us it is a great concept to get the guys from Sligo Rovers and GAA involved because they would have very high fitness levels and have a good level of ability so we wanted to take them down to a level where it is maybe uncomfortable for them and a level playing field for us.”
Their visit to the Mercy also fell into their preparation for the upcoming European Championships in which the Irish team will be competing.