The Republic of Ireland will have its first ever Down Syndrome Futsal team as they prepare for the SUDS European Championships in Italy in September. Eight players, from six different counties across Ireland, will form the team as they work towards the competition in the coming months. Donegal is represented by no fewer than three players in the eight man squad- goalkeeper David Crawford and forwards Daniel O’Reilly and Hughie Sweeney. It is our great honour to welcome all three Ireland Internationals to Finn Park for Friday night’s game again Waterford United.
Daniel O’Reilly lives in Letterkenny and is 26 years old. Daniel works 5 days a week, a total of 21 hours at Mac’s Deli on High Road, Letterkenny. He loves working there. Daniel enjoys music, he is a big Chelsea fan and loves playing soccer and going to the gym. Daniel trains with the North West Special Olympics soccer team on a Wednesday night and coaches young boys and girls with Down Syndrome at the Aura Leisure Centre on a Saturday morning. Daniel is looking forward to representing Ireland at a tournament in Padova, Italy in September this year.
Hughie Sweeney hails from Gweedore. He is one of identical twins and he has a brother called Eamonn. Hughie is 41 years of age and has been playing soccer for most of his life. Eamonn was picked for the Ireland team in 2003, as they wouldn’t let the two of them play that year on the team to represent Ireland in the world Special Olympic games. Hughie took part in the Ireland games in Belfast in 2006 and then played for Ireland in the 2011 World Special Olympics in Athens, Greece. Hughie is a huge soccer fan and a big follower of Celtic and Liverpool and never misses a game on TV. He trains every Wednesday with the North West Special Olympics team and trains with Gweedore Celtic whenever he gets time. Hughie is picked as one of the Ireland team’s forwards and as Paul Smyth the FAI Coach refers to him as one of “our famous strikers”. Hughie is a keen swimmer and cyclist and loves going to the gym in the Chuirt Hotel in Gweedore. Hughie cycles to his work most days in Gallagher’s supermarket in Gweedore, he works there 5 days a week and they refer to him as the boss! Hughie is over the moon to be selected for Ireland again and is working hard to get fit and ready for the games.
David Crawford was born with down syndrome and with several serious complications. His parents weren’t sure he was going to make it. He was christened in Sligo before being rushed to Crumlin. Surgery was successful but was a long hard road. In the end all complications were reversed and he is now a healthy man. David is doing his leaving cert in the Abbey Vocational School at the moment and also works two days a week in Harvey’s Point. He is Nathan Carter’s biggest fan and just loves his football and is a Man Utd fan. David and his family are very proud and excited that he has been selected for Ireland.
The team will be coached by Head Coach Paul Smyth and Assistant Coach Brendan Corish, both are FAI Football For All Development Officers who first began preparing a Down Syndrome Futsal squad back in 2020.
Paul Smyth said: “It’s something we have worked on since 2020 however the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the progression we made and so last year we were able to host open assessments again.
“The standard of football is excellent and I’m looking forward to working with the players.
It’s an honour to represent your country and for us to assemble a side that will fly the flag for Ireland is something we’re incredibly proud of. It will be an amazing experience for us and we’ve no doubt the Irish public will get behind us.”
Republic of Ireland Down Syndrome Futsal Squad
Goalkeeper: David Crawford (Co. Donegal)
Defenders: Josh Hennessy (Co. Dublin), Jamie Linden (Co. Louth)
Midfielders: Cian Kelleher (Co. Cork), Micheál McCloy (Co. Down), Sean Toolin (Co. Waterford)
Forwards: Daniel O’Reilly (Co. Donegal), Hughie Sweeney (Co. Donegal)