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Friday 31 May 2024
Walking football teams perform strongly on world stage

The Northern Ireland Over-70s walking football team came within a whisker of claiming a world title in their first ever major international tournament.

The Over-70s missed out on world glory by a single point when they took part in the International Walking Football Federation (IWFF) World Championships earlier this month.

The event was held at the SMH Stadium, home of Chesterfield FC, and attracted entries from nine countries in the Over-60s section and eight in the Over-70s age group. Northern Ireland had teams in both sections.

After drawing 0-0 with Gibraltar in their opening match in the tournament, the Over-70s lost narrowly to England by a goal to nil. They notched up their first win against Wales (1-0) thanks to a goal from debutant Pete Eastham.

They began day two with an impressive 2-1 victory over Sweden, with David Lemon grabbing both goals.

Lemon scored another brace in the next game against France. David Marcus added a third in a comfortable 3-0 win.

Next up was a game against Australia. It was decided in the final minutes when Lemon pounced on a defensive mistake to slot home the winner.

Northern Ireland knew that if they could beat Norway in their final game the world title would be theirs.

However, despite gallant efforts all round, the Over-70s could only manage a 0-0 draw and ended up finishing a point behind overall winners England.

The Over-60s also had a good tournament, finishing fourth overall.

On day one they drew 0-0 with Wales, France and Norway and registered a 1-0 win over the Caribbean thanks to a goal from Anthony Cafolla.

Their first match on day two was against England. They were under the cosh for long spells but held out for another goalless draw.

Next came Australia and two goals from Michael Haddock secured a 2-0 victory for Northern Ireland.

In their final group game, against Sweden, the Over-60s conceded for the first time in the tournament after just 30 seconds.

However, they quickly bounced back and spurned several good opportunities before getting a deserved penalty, which was confidently dispatched by Michael Mahood. The game ended 1-1.

At the end of day two Northern Ireland were in joint third with Israel. The two countries subsequently had a third/fourth place play-off match which Israel won 1-0.

Any players in their sixties and seventies playing walking football with any of the Northern Ireland Walking Football Federation (NIWFF) affiliated clubs who would like to try out for the national squads should contact NIWFF secretary David Lemon at and he will set up arrangements.

Northern Ireland Over-60s WF Squad (coached by Jim Morgan and managed by Gary Barclay): Jim Gorman, Ken Armstrong, Ray Ritchie, Jackie Fenton, Ray Hunter, Anthony Cafolla, Michael Haddock, Keith Campbell, Gary McKeown and Michael Mahood.

Northern Ireland Over-70s WF Squad (also coached by Jim Morgan and managed by Gary Barclay): Pete Eastham, Geoff Layland, Ellis Harvey, Eddie Kelly, George Bowden, Fred Cooley, David Lemon, David Marcus and Drew Mearns.

Image: The Northern Ireland Over-70s walking football team who finished runners-up at the International Walking Football Federation (IWFF) World Championships.