Sydney 2018: Ireland’s fundraising challenge

Wheelchair rugby team raising money to cover costs for Worlds 27 Jul 2018
the Ireland male and female wheelchair rugby team smiling on a court

Ireland's wheelchair rugby team have been fundraising their way to the 2018 World Championship

ⒸIrish Wheelchair Rugby
By Beau Greenway | For the IPC

Qualifying for a major international event is hard, but getting an entire wheelchair rugby team across the other side of the world can be just as difficult. Ireland made history in April when they won the qualifying tournament in Nottwil, Switzerland, to book their place at the World Championship for the first time.

However, their preparations for Sydney 2018 have been a little different to most in the tournament.

The Irish playing group has undertaken a huge fundraising effort to get to the Worlds in Australia, with each player requiring around 4000 EUR to cover costs.

Captain John McCarthy completed a marathon push in his hometown of Dunmanway, while his teammates found their own unique ways to help the cause.

“We've had everything from some of our staff, friends and supporters who did a cycle the length of Ireland called the Mizen to Malin,” McCarthy said.

“They spent three days cycling the length of Ireland.

“One of our guys 'Leggy' (Alan Dineen) worked in a gym down in Cork and had a disco he called a 'Gym Jam' and all the gym members, friends and family came along to that.

“He's actually had a sandwich named after him at a local deli as well and he got so many Euro for each of his sandwiches that were sold.

“There's been a good few initiatives, Will (Doggart) did an abseil a few weeks back, so there's been a bit of everything.

“It's all hands on deck to get us there and any Euro coming into the kitty was more than welcome.”

Competing at the highest level

McCarthy admitted it has been somewhat a bittersweet scenario heading into the Worlds.

“We're trying our best to get our word out there over the last few weeks and give it a hard push for the last run into the championships themselves,” he said.

“We had a big bill to pay to get to Australia, we get a little backing from our (national governing body) Irish Wheelchair Sports, but other than that all the athletes on the team have had to do a fundraising drive.

“It has taken away the focus a little bit from our own particular training for rugby, but I suppose it's what we have to do to compete at the highest level.

“We struggle a little bit, our last squad training session was last weekend, but we did have squad sessions most weekends in the lead-up to the games.

“It's those sort of things where we should be focusing on getting ourselves finely-tuned for Sydney, but we don't get to Sydney without the extra cash coming in.”

Focus on the competition

Despite not having as much training under their belts as they would have liked, McCarthy said the excitement is slowly but surely building.

“I've been involved in wheelchair rugby for 20-odd years and this my first taste of a World Championship,” McCarthy said.

“All we can do is focus on the competition now.

“The fundraising isn't completely behind us, but, for the players, we're getting our heads down, watching some games and trying to get focused on the task ahead.”

Ireland is in Pool A alongside host nation and defending champions Australia, Japan, Sweden, New Zealand and Denmark.

This Irish team starts their campaign against Japan on 5 August, with the Championship running until 10 August.

You can donate to Irish Wheelchair Rugby here.