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Four football 7-a-side teams head to South Dublin

Ireland will be joined by the Netherlands, Scotland and the USA at the Dublin Gathering football 7-a-side tournament.

Aaron Tire Ireland's Aaron Tire and the USA's Gavin Sibayan fight for the ball during their football 7-a-side game at the 2012 BT Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, Great Britain. © • Getty Images
By Tom Bestwick | For the IPC

“I think the football for all programme is very important for the future of Ireland’s 7-a-side football, as it is developing young players who will eventually be called up to the seniors. We need our young players to always be developing and improving as we need to be challenging in the big tournaments in the future.”

Three of the world’s leading football 7-a-side teams will travel to South Dublin, Ireland this weekend for the inaugural Dublin Gathering tournament which begins on Monday (6 May).

The Netherlands, Scotland and the USA, who are ranked fifth, sixth and ninth in the world, respectively, will form a four-team tournament that will be played at Peamount United FC.

A new dawn for Ireland

For hosts Ireland, it is the dawn of a new era, especially after missing out on making the short trip to London for the Paralympic Games by just one place last summer.

Since then, manager Mick Doyle and his coaching staff, JJ Glynn and Mark Connors, have set about rebuilding their green army.

The Dublin Gathering will see Doyle field the youngest squad ever to compete at an international tournament. With the average age of the squad only just a touch above 21, Doyle has four players in his squad under 18 – with three of them making their international debuts.

“The fact that we didn't qualify for London meant that four or five players from the previous squad retired,” Doyle said. “We've been in transition period for the past 14-15 months, and although we believe that we're only touching the surface we're starting to find very good youth prospects.

“We've made a lot of progress over the past 12 months, but so will the other teams. I would hope we can make the final on Saturday, but our overall strategy looking towards Brazil in 2016 is ‘continuous improvement.’

“Obviously we'll get a good benchmark as to where we are during and after next week, and that will give us an indication of how we need to proceed over the coming months.”

Ireland have been able to cherry pick the nations brightest talents through the FA’s Football for All initiative – a project that has been set up to give everybody the chance to be involved in football.

“It's huge. We have on any given Saturday, approximately 40 kids of various ages, abilities and disabilities,” Doyle said.

Football for All

One of those players who have benefitted from the Football for All programme is 16-year-old Dillon Sheridan.

Sheridan has already donned the green Ireland shirt when he played in two friendly matches against Great Britain at the new state of the art St. Georges Park earlier in the year.

“I can’t explain it, there is nothing like playing for your country,” Sheridan said.

Like his head coach, Sheridan believes the Football for All project is crucial to the future of the international set-up and says he would not be where he is today without it.

“I think the football for all programme is very important for the future of Ireland’s 7-a-side football, as it is developing young players who will eventually be called up to the seniors. We need our young players to always be developing and improving as we need to be challenging in the big tournaments in the future.”

Sheridan added: “I think Ireland have a great chance of success in this tournament. It would be nice to take something into the Intercontinental Cup in July and of course Brazil 2016 I think the whole team will have to be at their best as there are some tough sides in the tournament.”

Tournament schedule:

6 May

15:30: Ireland-USA

17:30 Scotland-Netherlands

7 May

15:30: Scotland-USA

17:30: Ireland-Netherlands

9 May

15:30: Netherlands-USA

17:30: Ireland-Scotland

11 May

13:30: Third-place game

15:30: First-place game