"There is no better feeling than walking out onto that pitch in the green jersey. You hear the national anthem playing and the goosebumps come next, I feel very proud to say I have represented my country at international level, there aren't many people who get that honour and I am very grateful to be one of those" - Dillion Sheridan
Those are the words of FAI Senior CP international footballer Dillion Sheridan. Sheridan is part of the Irish squad selected to represent his country at the World Championships in Argentina this month. For Sheridan his journey into international football began almost five years ago to the day. "I was playing a mainstream game for my local club Ballyfermot United, a few people had told me someone from the FAI Senior International CP Team was there to watch the game, two weeks later my phone rang and I was asked if I'd like to train with the team, that was the beginning of what has been an incredible experience representing Ireland for the past five years. I would highly recommend anybody out there who might qualify to take part in CP football reach out to the FAI or your national association if you live in a different country. It's an experience you'll never forget, getting the opportunity to play in top class facilities whilst representing your country, making new friends and traveling to different parts of the World while you get to enjoy your football".
The standard of Senior CP Football is very high and Sheridan who plays mainstream football in the Leinster Senior League back home in Ireland confirms that. "The current top four teams in the World are all full time professional footballers. You have some sides like ourselves (Ireland) who do our best to be as professional as possible in our preparations and we've managed to compete very well over the past number of years". Sheridan who has signed this season for Leinster Senior League Club Palmerstown FC is someone to look out for according to Derek Kavanagh who is joint manager of Palmerstown FC alongside Jamie Conroy, "Dillion is a very talented footballer, sometimes people hear the term CP football or Paralympic football and they assume the standard would be nowhere near the standard of mainstream football. Those people would be greatly mistaken, I had the honour and privilege to be on the coaching staff with Ireland for the 2014 European Championships and seen first hand the quality teams like Ukraine, Russia and Holland possess. Being familiar with a number of the Irish lads I know they are traveling with the quality to make an impression over in Argentina and on behalf of his teammates and all at Palmerstown FC would like to wish Dillion, the team and staff the very best of luck, we'll be watching and supporting back home". Ireland's first group game is against Spain on Sunday the 10th of September. Brazil and Canada complete what will be a difficult group for the Irish to come through.
Irish preparations for the World Championships begun back in February. Rob Sweeney a member of manager Paul Breen's coaching staff was very positive about how Irish preparations have been. "We are delighted with how preparations have been. As a team we sat down last February and put together a seven month programme which incorporated a number of key aspects, from developing a specific playing style, selecting a squad and making plans in relation to the logistic preparations involved with any major tournament. The nature of International football means that you don’t get to see your players on a regular basis, so we have had to make the most of our time with the players in terms of implementing both our attacking and defending playing styles and a mindset of wanting to do everything possible to give yourself the best possible chance of performing. The players have really bought into what we are trying to do which is testament to them. Our contact with the players stepped up for the final five weeks of our preparations and we trained regularly in FAI National Training Centre fine tuning our playing style and maintaining our fitness levels ahead of flying to compete in Argentina".
One thing is clear from speaking to Rob Sweeney about the Irish staff, the team is prepared and ready with clear defined goals. "Paul and the coaching staff have been instrumental in developing a high performance culture within the group, we have certain ideas of how we would like the game to be played and we have worked extremely hard in implementing these ideas. We have a couple of world class players playing within this team who have been around for a number of years. We want to give them the opportunity to express themselves and continue to impact on games and the sport as a hole. Throughout the tournament we will be using a lot of performance analysis, one of my roles has been working with other international teams within the Association in this capacity. As a group we will know what we are coming up against, we will provide the players with a detailed insight into the teams we play during the group stage and hopefully beyond. This is just another tool in helping us give the players the best possible opportunity to perform".
It is clear from listening to Rob Speak speak about the side that this team offers way more than simple football. "One thing I have loved since becoming involved with this team is the sense of community within this group of people, not just between the players but their friends and families. Earlier in the year as a senior coaching staff we attended a development tournament in Dublin where our development squad took part, and it was great to see a number of key Senior International Players in attendance supporting, this emphasised the spirit of the community. As a Staff now it is up to us to ensure this is maintained throughout our programme and taken into the tournament. This togetherness is a tool used by every Irish team competing in any sport at any tournament across the world and we are no different". Together and ready, one thing is for sure, this Ireland team will not be easy to beat!. Ireland's first group game vs Spain takes place at 5pm Irish time on Sunday September 10th and can be watched live via the following link: http://www.cp2017.com.ar/