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Wednesday 29 May 2024
Powerchair team perform strongly at Home Nations Cup

Northern Ireland’s senior Powerchair team finished runners-up in the European Powerchair Football Association Home Nations Cup.

They reached the final of the competition for the first time, however England proved to be too strong for them in the decider.

SportScotland Inverclyde National Sport Training Centre in Largs was the venue for the international tournament in which Northern Ireland faced hosts Scotland and Republic of Ireland as well as England.

The Northern Ireland team featured Sean McKinney (GK), Jason Browning, Bartek Kuszkowski, Patrick Cumiskey, Ethan McCabe and Scott Hilland (captain).

The event at the weekend was the team’s first competitive action since returning from the World Cup in October, with McCabe joining the senior panel for the first time.

Northern Ireland faced World Cup finalists England in the opening group game. A starting side of McKinney, Hilland, Cumiskey and Kuszkowski was selected.

A slow start from Northern Ireland was punished with England taking an early 2-0 lead.

Northern Ireland grew in to the game and midway through the first half they pulled a goal back through Kuszkowski, who finished from close range from an excellent Cumiskey pass.

The boys in green and white had a couple of half-chances after the interval but England then produced a flurry of goals to extend their lead to 5-1.

Browning and McCabe, making his senior international debut, replaced McKinney and Hilland and they were able to help stop England from adding to their tally.

Northern Ireland’s second game was against the Scots. They took an early lead when Cumiskey teed up captain Hilland and he slotted the ball home.

They dominated proceedings and created several good opportunities, although McKinney had to repel a couple of decent efforts from Scotland. The game finished 1-0.

Northern Ireland met the Republic in the first game of day two.

Kuszkowski tested the Republic keeper, while McKinney and Hilland were strong at the back as the first half fizzled out in a stalemate.

After the break Northern Ireland upped the tempo and were awarded a penalty when Hilland was fouled as he pushed forward. Cumiskey showed great composure when slotting in the spot kick.

The Republic then piled on the pressure and McKinney produced an outstanding save at the death to ensure all three points were secured by Northern Ireland. And it also meant they reached the final where they would face England once again.

In the decider Browning was given the nod ahead of McKinney, with Cumiskey going in goals.

Northern Ireland produced a fine defensive display to limit England’s attack, although England managed to find a way through midway through the first half.

McCabe replaced Hilland just after the goal went in, with Cumiskey taking the armband. Northern Ireland had a couple of half-chances on the counter but could not find a finish.

McKinney was restored to the goals for the second half with Browning making way and Cumiskey moving outfield.

Despite England dominating possession, Northern Ireland looked bright and created some decent openings.

Hilland was reintroduced in place of Cumiskey with 10 minutes to play as Northern Ireland chased an equaliser. The captain had a long range effort go just wide despite the best efforts of McCabe to deflect it on target.

As Northern Ireland pushed forward, they were undone by two goals in the final minutes and England ran out 3-0 winners.

Coach Michael Hilland said: “The team can be proud of their performances throughout the weekend. We saw quality from the whole squad.

“They showed great resilience to bounce back from the opening game defeat. Finishing runners-up against three very good sides is a great outcome and carries on our development from our World Cup campaign.”