Derry men start a Down Syndrome football team but they have no-one to play against
We're all forever whinging about the training to game ratio.
In every sport, at every age group, the thing that keeps players engaged and motivated is matches. It's the only reason to train in the first place so the absence of regular fixtures can become disheartening and turn some people off.
In Derry, a group of footballers with Down Syndrome have been training since October 2015 but they have no-one to play against.
You might remember young Adam Morrison, the star of one of the most heartwarming videos ever.
This could honestly be the best football video ever... https://t.co/vMq0Cu6aII
— SportsJOE.ie (@SportsJOEdotie) July 23, 2016
At 10 years of age, Adam started training with Oxford in Derry and he fulfilled a dream of sorts by scoring in the Foyle Cup.
The 'keeper couldn't stop it.
The opposition couldn't believe it.
And Morrison reeled away in celebration.
To the joy of his team mates.
It was the most touching story of last summer.
Well, Morrison is still playing - of course he bloody is with a strike like that - and his dad, Kevin, started a football team for Down Syndrome children in the area and it has proved to be a huge success.
Along with John Norris and Seamus Breslin - two other fathers - the trio took the sessions themselves thanks to support from the Foyle Down Syndrome Trust in Derry and they've been reaping the rewards since.
"The idea was basically to give our kids - and all kids with Down Syndrome - an opportunity to form friendships and build up their confidence, whilst enjoying the physical benefits of regular sporting activity," Kevin Morrison explained to SportsJOE.
"The kids really seemed to be enjoying it so we agreed to try and keep it going for another season. We even had an end of season awards presentation.
"Our second season started in October 2016 and it was clear our progress hadn't gone unnoticed. I was contacted by Michael Hamill who was Treasurer of Derry club Oxford United Stars. He offered to supply us with a brand new Oxford United kit, new footballs and most importantly, he offered us the services of Oxford United coaching staff for our Sunday morning sessions."
Now, meet the Oxford Bulls.
Fitted with new jerseys, new footballs and even playing cards of themselves, the Derry team are fully operational under Oxford coaches Noel Crampsey, Joe Kelly, Luke Crampsey and Paul Morrison.
They've even had the north west Pele himself, Paddy McCourt, in to take a session.
The only problem is the boys would love a game but they have no opposition to play them.
And that's a shame considering the amount of progress they're making and how much their reputation is rising in Derry.
"The lads are becoming mini celebrities around the north west as people start to recognise them from their appearances in the local and national press," Kevin Morrison said.
"The involvement of the Oxford staff has seen them come on leaps and bounds.
"Conan Norris, who is the grandson of Derry boxing legend Charlie Nash, is turning out to be a great wee dribbler, whilst Jack Rogers is fast gaining a reputation as a tough tackling midfielder who takes no prisoners!"
They have it all. They just need a game now.
If you know of anyone or any team that might be able to answer the call, get in touch with Kevin at Event Images and Video and help these boys get the game they deserve.
The Foyle Cup is coming back around in the summer. Maybe more kids than just Adam can experience what scoring at that tournament feels like.
While you're here...
Watch Michael Carruth, Kenneth Egan, Stephen Elliott, Paul Geaney, Dion Fanning, Wooly Parkinson and Conor Sketches on the new SportsJOE Live.
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