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Donaghy comes out of retirement for NI Futsal first

By Stuart McKinley

Eighteen months after hanging up his football boots, former Irish League defender Ciaran Donaghy is ready to don his trainers - and a green Northern Ireland shirt to represent his country at senior international level.

Donaghy's father Mal was part of the Northern Ireland team that won the last Home International Championship at senior level in the 11-a-side version of the game and Ciaran will try to emulate him when the first Home Nations Futsal Championship begins this evening.

Futsal is by and large five-a-side football, but with variations and subtle rule differences that set it apart from the recreational form of football.

Donaghy - who back in 2000 played for Northern Ireland in the Milk Cup alongside Chris Baird - had spells with Crusaders, Ballymena United, Cliftonville and Carrick Rangers during his Irish League career before 'unofficially retiring' at the end of the 2014-15 season.

Getting the chance to play for his country proved too much of a temptation to resist.

"I was part of the Irish FA team that went over to Prague to start the Futsal thing with the IFA," said Donaghy, who works for the Association as a Grassroots Development Officer.

"I didn't think I would be in the team that starts playing, but it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

"It's something that all players want to do - to represent their country. I did it at youth level albeit that it is a slightly different game."

The names of those taking part might be unfamiliar, but for one young Londonderry-born man it's his boyhood dream come true.

Adam Barr will lead the 14-man history-making Northern Ireland international team when they face England, Scotland and Wales in Cardiff.

"I got the phone call on Saturday night to tell me I was going to be captain of my country and I think that's every boy's dream," said Barr.

"No matter what sport or what level, to represent your country and be captain is a very proud moment."

northern Ireland lost 7-1 to Wales in their opening game last night, Michael O'Hehir scoring the goal.

Northern Ireland Squad: Philip Irvine (Unattached), Adam McGeown (Unattached), John Gibson (Queen's University), Ciaran Donaghy (Unattached), Adam Barr (Genesis Futsal Club), Stuart Wells (Armagh Blues), James Gould (Loughgall), Conor Glenholmes ( Sport & Leisure Swifts), Michael O'Hehir (Ballyoran), Chris Donnelly (Wattcell Futsal Club), Gerson Melicio (Loughgall), Ernestas Verenka (Armagh City), Stuart Jordan (Lurgan Town), Jasir Camara (Loughgall).

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