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Monday 09 Jul 2018
Donaghy says boys in green will be ‘up for the challenge’ in Netherlands

The Northern Ireland Cerebral Palsy team are gearing up to take part in the European Championships later this month.

The International Federation of CP Football (IFCPF) Euros are being staged in the Netherlands from 25 July until 5 August.

Northern Ireland CP team manager Alan Crooks and coach Mal Donaghy have assembled a 12-strong squad for the seven-a-side tournament at the Dutch FA’s campus in Zeist.

Ten countries will be competing for the European trophy and Northern Ireland have been drawn in a tough qualifying group featuring the host nation, Germany, Republic of Ireland and Denmark.

The boys in green, who are ranked 13thin the world, will face Germany in their first Group A match on 27 July. The Germans are currently in 20thplace in the world rankings.

Northern Ireland will then face top seeds Netherlands (ranked third in the world) on 29 July and the Republic (ranked seventh) the following day. Their final group game is on 1 August against Denmark (ranked 18th).

The top two in each group will progress to the semi-finals, while there will also be play-offs for overall placings.

Coach Mal Donaghy said: “It’s an extremely tough group. The draw could have been a bit kinder for us but I know our players have great pride in representing the country in major championships.”

The squad, who finished 11thin the Cerebral Palsy World Cup in Argentina last September, have lost two of their senior players in David Leavy and Cormac Birt. 

Despite the loss of two of the mainstays of the team, Donaghy believes a very youthful Northern Ireland side will be “up for the challenge”.

The squad will be training in east Belfast this Sunday and then heading to the Netherlands the following weekend.

Ukraine, who have won the last five European Championships and are the top ranked team in the world, are hot favourites to lift the trophy once again.

Northern Ireland squad for CP Football European Championships: Paul Cassidy, Charlie Fogarty, Christian Canning, Jordan Walker, Lewis Hutin, Timmy McClean, Matthew Gildea, Sean Coyle, Ryan Walker, Charley Emerson, Ryan Neill, Shea Tighe.