The Northern Ireland Powerchair team’s preparations for their first appearance at a World Cup have been boosted by a visit from Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill and four senior international players.
The Northern Ireland manager and Ethan Galbraith, Dale Taylor, Isaac Price and Callum Marshall took time out from their preparations for two upcoming Euro qualifiers to meet the players who will be donning the green jersey at the 2023 FIPFA Powerchair World Cup in Australia this autumn.
The four senior men’s team players even got to try their hand at powerchair football when they attended a powerchair squad training session at Ballysillan Leisure Centre in Belfast.
The Powerchair World Cup is being staged in Australia in October and all 10 national teams at the finals will play each other at the group stage.
The other countries due to compete at the tournament are England, Republic of Ireland, France, USA, Argentina, Japan, Denmark, Uruguay and hosts Australia. Sydney Olympic Park’s Quay Centre is set to be the venue for all the matches.
Alan Crooks, Disability and Inclusion Development Manager with the Irish FA Foundation, said: “It was a great experience for the international powerchair players and staff to have Michael and four of the senior panel take time out of their busy schedule to visit us.
“Michael and the players wished the team good luck ahead of the Powerchair World Cup and the members of the powerchair squad really appreciated it.”
Michael Hilland, who coaches the Northern Ireland Powerchair team, said: “The boys were buzzing. Getting to play a fun game against Isaac, Ethan, Dale and Callum will live long in the memories of our young squad.
“Michael (O’Neill) has always been supportive of disability football in Northern Ireland and it is great to feel the backing of the whole Northern Ireland squad as we look towards the World Cup.”
Scott Hilland, who captains the Northern Ireland Powerchair team, said afterwards: “It was great. We all really enjoyed playing against the boys and to hear the international manager praise our touch and skills was surreal. We will do everything we can to make our country proud at the FIPFA World Cup later this year.”
Before they head off to the southern hemisphere in October, the Powerchair team will be training hard at Ballysillan Leisure Centre on several Sundays between now and then as well as taking part in various tournaments and friendlies in both Lisburn and Belfast against the likes of Teeside PFC, Middlesbrough PFC and Tayside PFC.
The opening ceremony for the FIPFA (Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Association) Powerchair Football World Cup is scheduled to be staged at 11am local time on Sunday 15 October.
Northern Ireland’s opener in the World Cup will be against Uruguay at 4pm that day. They will then have two group games per day between 16 October and 19 October.
The semi-finals and final plus placing matches are due to be staged at Sydney Olympic Park’s Quay Centre on 20 October.