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A team of Irish doctors enjoyed great success in the World Medical Football Championships in Barcelona in July, reaching the quarter-finals of the competition.
The tournament has run for over 20 years, with 22 teams from around the globe striving to take home the title of world champions.
In a unique twist, each team must have two players aged over 35 and two players over 40 on the field at any time, to encourage participation of all ages. Moreover, in case any team considers sneaking in non-medical players, participants may be quizzed about common medical scenarios on the sidelines.
(L-R) David Brennan, Nathan Wall (both TCD GP training scheme) and Ian Daly (South East GP training scheme)
The tournament coincided with the 22nd International Symposium of Medicine in Health and Sport, attended by over 700 physicians. Dublin GP Dr Peter Kelly took home one of the main prizes for his presentation at the event.
The Irish team consists of a mix of GPs from all corners of Ireland and hospital doctors of all levels, from intern to consultant. Ireland made their debut in last year’s tournament, held in California, beating Germany and Brazil in their group, only to fall to a 1-0 defeat to eventual champions the Czech Republic.
The competition follows the traditional format of knockout tournaments, with Ireland mirroring the national side’s habit of being drawn in the ‘group of death’.
Ireland came away paired with 2014 champs Brazil again, reigning champs the Czech Republic and Mexico — the toughest possible opposition and the most competitive group by a distance. Stakes were higher this year, with only one team guaranteed to escape the group, so there was no room for error from the start.
First up was Brazil. Far from being daunted by the task ahead, Irish spirits remained high, having overcome the Brazilians in their opening game at last year’s event in the US.
The players of all 22 nations gathered early on Sunday morning outside the impressive training complex of FC Barcelona, west of the city itself. It houses nine pristine artificial pitches, with excellent facilities throughout the complex.
National anthems rang out to signal the start of the tournament and Amhrán na bhFiann was heard for miles around, as the Irish team made sure everyone was in no doubt about their enthusiasm and pride representing their country.
Two goals from Midlands GP trainee Dr Aidan McGrath were enough to see off the challenge of the Brazilians, as the hard-working Irish side snuffed out the intricate passing game of the South American former champions.
Next up, the Mexicans were put to the sword 6-0, with goals from anaesthetist Dr Coilin Collins Smyth, radiation oncologist Dr Ronan McDermott and a hat-trick from consultant gynaecologist Dr Tom Walsh.
On the back of these successes, Ireland faced the reigning champions the Czech Republic in their final group game. With a flawless team performance marked with high intensity and no little skill, Ireland overcame the champs 2-0, with goals from the aforementioned Dr McGrath and Dr Walsh.
Three wins from three, 10 goals scored, none conceded. The Irish were now among the favourites for the title.
Drawn in the quarter finals against Sweden — also undefeated — hopes were high in the Irish camp. But a tense and scrappy contest finished 1-1 in normal time, the Irish goal again coming from Dr McGrath. With neither side able to fashion a winner, the match was decided by penalties, which went all the way to sudden death. The Swedes held their nerve and Ireland were knocked out by the narrowest of margins.
The Ireland Doctors Team (back row, L-R): John Cosgrove, manager; Diarmaid Fitzgerald, physio; Kevin Sheahan; David Brennan; Gavin Keane; Ronan Cassidy; Karol Laffan; Nathan Wall; John Larkin; Colm Cosgrove; Peter Kelly; Barra Neary; Denis Curtin; Dermot Kelleher; David Browne (manager); (front row) Andrew Delaney, captain; Ian Daly; David Cosgrove; John Seery; Steve Karagiannis; Ronan McDermott; Tom Walsh; Tommy Fitzgerald; John Frizelle; Kerry O’Connell; Dean Huggard; Coilin Collins-Smyth; and Aidan McGrath
Sweden went all the way to the final, where they faced the Czech Republic, who had progressed through the other side of the draw. The Czechs retained their title after another penalty shootout.
A disappointed Ireland lost to the hosts Catalonia 1-0 in their next game, before defeating Ukraine 2-1 in the last match to finish in 7th place overall out of 22 teams.
The Irish team are already looking forward to the 2017 event, which takes place in the mountain town of Leogang in Austria next July.
The Irish team are hugely grateful to their generous sponsors Affidea and Icon. They also wish to thank Pieta House, the self-harm and suicide prevention charity, for whom the Irish team organised a number of fund-raising events for their help.
Any doctors interested in taking part next year, please contact the team organisers via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.