Belfast Telegraph

Irish wheelchair rugby team bidding for world championship glory

Irish national squad will travel to Switzerland in April to contest the World Championship qualifiers.

A pioneering Irish national wheelchair rugby team is bidding to emulate its Six Nations counterparts in a world championship qualifier in Switzerland next month.

Alan Lynch lost the use of his legs when he fell from a tree aged just 14 and said the sport has been a hugely important outlet and helped him cope with his disability.

He said: “Wheelchair rugby is good for both the body and the mind.

“It is helping many Irish men and women put their lives back together and gives them a focus for the future.

“The sport gets people active again, it keeps them fit and instead of focusing on their disability, players concentrate on doing well in a game with their team mates.”

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(Julien Behal/PA)

The Gaelic Warriors from Clontarf in Dublin were the first of their kind in Ireland to play wheelchair rugby – and were later joined by counterparts from Laois, Munster and Ulster, making up the national team.

Grand Slam fever is gripping Ireland ahead of the country’s Six Nations clash with England on Saturday.

Mr Lynch broke two vertebrae in his neck, but through rehab came across wheelchair rugby and embraced it.

He is captain and chairman of the Gaelic Warriors club, which has male and female members and takes part in a national league.

A number of the Clontarf players, including Mr Lynch, are part of the Irish national squad which will travel to Switzerland in April to contest the World Championship qualifiers.

Teams from Ireland, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, New Zealand and Korea will compete to secure the final four available spots at the Championships in Sydney this August.

Specially designed offensive and defensive chairs imported from the US and New Zealand at a cost of around €5,000 each are needed for the sport.

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(Julien Behal/PA)

Mr Lynch added: “The slogan on the Irish Wheelchair Rugby website says ‘Wrecking Wheelchairs in Ireland since 1997’, so as you can imagine, these wheelchairs need constant upkeep.

“National Lottery funding has allowed us to buy some chairs for players and to get essential maintenance for others.

“Because of the physical nature of the sport there are often a few broken parts so the lottery funding meant we could get those fixed.”

Thanks to National Lottery Good Causes funding of 25,000 euros, the Gaelic Warriors club was able to buy five specially adapted wheelchairs.

The National Lottery also funded the Laois Lions with 34,000 euros and provided grant aid for the Irish National Wheelchair Rugby side worth 25,000 euros.

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