In August the European Powerchair Football Association (EPFA), held their inaugural Home Nations event, in Sevenoaks, Kent.
The tournament welcomed three teams; junior sides from England and the Republic of Ireland, whilst Northern Ireland took part in international competition for the first time.
The teams were competing for the Joe Barry Memorial Trophy - named after the young man who passed away last year whilst representing the Republic of Ireland at an EPFA Development competition.
Players resided at Valence School, a special needs school for students with physical disabilities, ensuring they had fully accessible rooms and equipment to make their stay as comfortable as possible. Players, parents, carers and coaches arrived on the Monday before undertaking two days of training and practice matches before their competitive matches on the Thursday.
The games themselves were highly competitive, despite the varying levels of powerchair football experience. The opening game saw England and the Republic of Ireland draw 1-1. This was a disappointing result for England, who were favourites before the competition began. However their performance improved in their second game, against Northern Ireland, comfortably winning 5-0.
As the event was a 3 team tournament, the Republic of Ireland knew they would have to better England’s result in order to claim the Home Nations trophy. However Northern Ireland stepped up their performance levels and the game was tied 1-1 with a two minutes remaining. Northern Ireland erupted with joy as they scored from a corner kick and claimed a 2-1 victory against their rivals to finish in second place.
The event concluded with a closing ceremonial meal, enabling all players and their families to socialise and enjoy their final evening before heading home.
Sam Bull, Sports Department Director for EPFA said, “This was a fantastic event and great experience for all those involved. It is important EPFA provide these opportunities for young players and new countries to continue their development and experience competing.”
“EPFA would like to thank Valence School, all the volunteers and the delegates for all their hard work during the event. We saw some great action on the pitch and many friendships were made off it!”