A Co Armagh man is one of eight players who will be representing the first ever Irish Down Syndrome Futsal Team at the European Championships in Italy this September
Micheál McCloy, from Whitecross, is the only man from Northern Ireland to be selected on the team, which will compete with Europe’s best in six weeks time.
The collaboration between the FAI’s Football for All programme and the Louth and Meath Branch of Down Syndrome Ireland saw more than 80 players take part in trials across the country earlier this year.
Recently, Micheál was presented with a cheque for £7,000 and €450, raised by his local community.
Sinn Féin councillor Declan Murphy said he was delighted to be able to hand over the cheque to our local history maker.
“He’s the only boy from the north who has made the team that will represent Ireland for the first time at the Down Syndrome Futsal championships in Italy this September.
“I want to say a massive go raibh milé maith agaibh to everyone who donated prizes for the raffle, who donated to the events and collections here in Whitecross and the wider community of south Armagh.
“The incredible generosity and community spirit shown by the people here has raised a fantastic amount of money that will help Michael and the team with the costs of preparation and travel for the tournament.
“Adh Mór to Michael and the rest of his team. Irrespective of the result they’ll be making history and inspiring people from all across our Island.”
Eight players, from six different counties across Ireland, will form the team as they work towards the competition in the coming months.
The team will be coached by Head Coach Paul Smyth and Assistant Coach Brendan Corish, both are FAI Football For All Development Officers who first began preparing a Down Syndrome Futsal squad back in 2020.
Paul Smyth said: “It’s something we have worked on since 2020 however the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the progression we made and so last year we were able to host open assessments again.
“The standard of football is excellent and I’m looking forward to working with the players.
“It’s an honour to represent your country and for us to assemble a side that will fly the flag for Ireland is something we’re incredibly proud of. It will be an amazing experience for us and we’ve no doubt the Irish public will get behind us.”