A WEST Belfast disabled football team will be aiming to win the George Best Community Cup for the second time in their short history when the annual competition kicks off in June.
Cumann Spoirt an Phobail - who draw members from all four corners of the city - won the tournament in 2017 alongside the IFA National Games and they will be hoping to lift the trophy again in the Valley Leisure Centre in two months’ time.
Their full focus on the minute however is clinching both the IFA Football for All League Two and Conference titles, with the two CSP sides sitting six and three points clear in both divisions ahead of sides such as Linfield, Glentoran, Coleraine and St James Swifts.
Both coaches and players are confident of the squad’s chances of lifting even more silverware in this summer tournament with preparations beginning once they conclude their league commitments in the coming weeks.
The George Best Cup is set to feature over 72 teams from across the UK and Ireland and four disability bands.
“We’re really looking forward to it and believe we can win it again,” said coach Mickey Corr.
The team was founded five and a half years ago by Joe McDonnell and Corr as the first for men and women of all ages with diverse disabilities.
Corr was interested when McDonnell told him of his intentions to establish a disability football team at the club, but after taking the squad’s first session he has, like many of the players, remained with the team ever since, and has no desire to move on.
He described the team as “like his second family” and he has almost become a father figure for many of the players as he provides them with “a shoulder to cry on” for personal problems which stretch far beyond football.
Lockdown proved to be a particularly difficult period for the squad, but Corr organised Zoom calls and was constantly in touch with the players who come from across the West and East of the city and as far as Bangor to ensure they remained fit and well ahead of their return to training at the pitches on the Ballymurphy Road.
The club doesn’t stop there as it also has an 11-a-side Football for All team play in the Belfast and District League, trained by Kevin McVeigh and Joanne McCausland.
Although challenging at times given that the disabilities of those in the team range from amputations to learning difficulties, he believes it is all worth it to see the joy that an hour’s worth of training brings the players each week.
“Sometimes they try and stretch it out to two hours,” added Corr.
“It is great fun though and everyone in the team are friends with each other despite their ages ranging from 16 to 54.
“There are no egos, they just all love playing football and being together.”