Cork City Amputee team: ‘I had never played to this level before’

Cork City Amputee team: ‘I had never played to this level before’
Cork City win Irish Amputee Football Association National League

A ROCHESTOWN man who went on to become a Cork city star after losing his leg in an accident is determined to win the national Amputee league post Covid-19.

Ruairí Murphy has been described by his coach on the Cork City Amputee Team as the most technically gifted player in the country.

He forms an important part of the squad and Irish Amputee Football Association’s reigning champions.

The team expect to be back on the pitch in July as the country slowly emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Irish Amputee International Ruairí travelled with his fellow Cork City teammates to last November’s World Cup in Mexico. Hopes of replicating that May 2019 glory in the Irish National League are still as strong as ever among Ruairí and his teammates.

It was only in recent years that the 39-year-old was approached to play on the team. After a work accident involving an elevator mechanism a number of years ago, it looked like Ruairí’s chances of ever playing sport competitively had been dashed.

“I was 25 when a puckloader crushed my leg,” he told The Echo. “Surprisingly I never got too down about it. I’m fairly relaxed and chilled out like that.

“Of course, there was a certain level of disappointment, fear and worry but I always had good people around me. I was in hospital for two weeks and managed to make it home for Christmas.”

Ruairí’s fighting spirit shone throughout the ordeal.

“I was in a wheelchair for a while as I had lost all feeling in my other leg,” he said. “When it came to having the prosthesis fitted I was lucky I was slim because it meant I didn’t have to bear much weight on it.

“Adapting to a prosthesis would have been much harder for someone with a heavier build.”

The Cork man is thankful that nobody treated him differently following the life-changing accident.

“I got the prosthesis within two or three months and nobody even noticed,” he said. “At the time I felt lucky I was able to hide it. I didn’t walk with a limp so there was no visible difference.

“I did eventually play sport with my prosthesis after the accident. It wasn’t until five years after my accident that friends were able to convince me to play a game of five-a-side.”

Cork City FC Amputee team’s Dáire Coughlan (coach) with Dave Saunders, Patrick Hickey, Fergal Duffy, and Ruairi Murphy. Not in the photo is Sean Óg Murphy.
Cork City FC Amputee team’s Dáire Coughlan (coach) with Dave Saunders, Patrick Hickey, Fergal Duffy, and Ruairi Murphy. Not in the photo is Sean Óg Murphy.

The Cork City forward first spotted a poster for the squad when getting fitted for a prosthesis. However, he confessed to initial reservations around joining.

“I’ve no doubt that some people feel that if they sign up for these things they are exposing themselves to a world of pity,” he said.

“The team is the exact opposite of that. It’s rare that anybody talks about their story. The majority of the time everyone’s mind is fixed on training.”

Training far surpassed the sportsman’s expectations.

“I had never played to this level before,” he explained. “You don’t realise how much you miss team sport because you’re so used to not having it. I never really took sport seriously before my accident.

“Turning up for a game of football at the weekend while still hungover from the night before was as good as it got. Things are a lot different now. Being hungover when you’re a 39-year-old on crutches isn’t really an option.”

He spoke of how the squad benefitted his confidence.

“Before that, I wouldn’t have gone out in shorts,” he said. “Now, I’ve become accustomed to the fact that people will stare. We are all guilty of it.”

Ruairí highlighted the importance of the squad for young amputees in search of similar role models.

“In many ways it does make a difference for people, especially those who are scared,” he said. “Before, I had never met another amputee. Now I know 30 other people.”

Ruairí is as focused as ever on making it back to the national league.

“You might say we were the underdogs so it was a really good feeling. The dream would be to get back there.”

2018: Cork City players celebrate following their side’s victory in the Irish Amputee Football Association National League final round match against Bohemians at Ballymun United Soccer Complex in Ballymun, Dublin.	Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
2018: Cork City players celebrate following their side’s victory in the Irish Amputee Football Association National League final round match against Bohemians at Ballymun United Soccer Complex in Ballymun, Dublin. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Coach praises courage of amputee players as team returns to training

A FOOTBALL coach paid tribute to his players on the Cork City Amputee Team as they battle to return to training following the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Daire Coughlan only began coaching the Cork City Amputee Team at the start of this year but has high hopes for what they can achieve together.

The team is currently engaged in a remote training programme and hope to be back on the pitch some time this month.

Daire explained how he came to be involved in the initiative.

“I came through the FAI’s coaching education and a lot of what they focus on is small-sided games,” he said. “I was able to take a lot of that training and apply it to the guys as there are only ever five or six on the squad at a time.”

He shed light on his players’ strengths.

“They have resolve because they’ve been through a lot more than you or me physically,” he said. “Their attitude is that nothing will stop them and it doesn’t look like anything will. That attitude runs right through the team. It’s all about getting the head down and not stopping to complain. I think that’s what’s impressed me most.”

Daire highlighted how in-demand his players are, including forward player Ruairí who was approached to play with Shamrock Rovers at the international leagues.

“Because the game abroad is seven-a-side, when Shamrock Rovers were playing they asked the governing body in Europe if they could bring along a guest player,” he said. “They brought along Ruairí which gives you a little insight into the standard the team is at. The National amputee organisation is a small community but I am yet to come across anyone in it who isn’t technically skilled, even though they do work very hard for it.”

He revealed how training the team has helped him develop as a coach.

“With young kids it’s all about observing their development and having them do what is asked of them,” he said. “Training adults is different and these are such an experienced bunch. At the end of the day I’m almost learning as much as they are.

“Young people who have recently lost a limb and are wondering what they can still achieve only need to look at these lads.”

The team’s positive attitude has had a significant impact on Daire.

“There have been small adaptations but nothing fundamental. It’s been really interesting,” he said. “As soon as you get into this group you realise that these guys are winners. You are under pressure and want to support them in winning as much as possible. For me that is key.”

Friendships and camaraderie are also a huge element in the team.

“There’s the same camaraderie as you would find in any other dressing room.”

Patrick turned his physical setback into an opportunity

Limerick native Patrick Hickey was born with an underdeveloped limb and moves around with the aid of crutches.

But this did nothing to hinder his passion for sport from a young age.

The Cork City Amputee forward and primary school teacher recalled how sport was always on his mind, even when undergoing massive surgery at nine years old.

“My foot didn’t develop so they turned it around to enable me to bend the leg which there can be pros and cons to,” he said.

“I had my surgery at the age of nine and can still remember it well,” Patrick added.

“United had beat Fulham on the 12th of January and I had to go to Dublin on the 14th.

“I was disappointed that I couldn’t go to hurling that Sunday to chat about the match with my friends,” he said.

Patrick’s determination was evident, and he described how he turned setbacks into opportunities.

“I broke the shorter leg and found I was able to hop around quite skillfully,” he said, referring to an incident from his childhood. “I did whatever I wanted to do and there was never any second-guessing.

“People are great like that. I just wanted to tip away and nobody ever got in my way. there was never any indulging or pampering.

“For as long as I can remember nobody ever treated me differently.”

He finds his current playing role particularly fulfilling.

“Being able to play under the Cork City name is that bit more prestigious and comes with a lot of pride.”

Patrick says he is glad to serve as a positive role model for the children he teaches.

“I think misconceptions only start to grow around the age of seven so small children tend not to take any notice,” he said..

“After that, they become so accustomed to it so never really ask any questions.

“The school has been very supportive and the principal will often ask for pictures of me playing with Cork City for the school’s Twitter page.”

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