The Irish Cerebral Palsy football team have been participating in the European Championships in Zeist, Holland over the last few weeks. After opening their campaign with a resounding 8-0 win over Denmark the boys in green have gone on to top their group and qualify for the semi-finals following further victories against Germany (5-1), Northern Ireland (4-0) and hosts Netherlands (1-0). Captaining the side is none other than Bray native Gary Messett.
Having grown up in Bray, Gary played his underage football with Wolfe Tone United before moving on to play at senior level with Glencormac United who have also been represented by several of his family members.
The Irish team went into this tournament knowing they had a solid foundation to build on, with 3 months of training laying the building blocks for the successful tournament so far. On top of team sessions, the squad members have been putting in the extra hours on an individual basis, something which Gary considers to have been a huge help for the team. With a positive lead-in to the tournament expectations must have been raised but Gary stresses that the team have been taking it one game at a time
“We wanted to deliver a clear message to the squad that our main aim was to take it game by game but also to win each each game which we have done so far, winning the group and going unbeaten too”
While Gary is a key player for the team, he has the added responsibility of being captain and it is clear that he takes his leadership role very seriously.
“Captaining your country is always a huge honour and especially in another country with this group of players is a feeling I will never forget. This group of players is the strongest squad I have been involved with”
Perhaps one of the highlights of the tournament so far for Ireland has been a victory over our neighbours Northern Ireland. One of the standout moments in the game was a screamer for Gary. We asked Gary to talk us through the goal:
“We kept the ball for long periods of the game out there and controlled the tempo. Staying high and wide was the key. When I cut inside on my left the net opened up and I just put my foot through the ball. I just made sure I hit the target which is what happened and thankfully it went in. It’s definitely up there in my top 3. I got a lovely one last year against Spain in the World Championships and in 2015 I scored against Russia over in England. That was the only goal Russia conceded in the tournament”
With a semi-final on the horizon, Gary stresses the game by game approach that the team have taken throughout the tournament and credits the management team as being a big part of the teams success.
“I think if we all stick to the game plan we have been set out by our coaching staff we will see ourselves getting a result. Since the new managements arrival in 2017 we have gone from strength to strength”
Those close to Gary will have noticed that his name on Facebook is Gary ‘Messi’ Messett. But Gary doesn’t try to mirror the style of the Argentinian, instead he aims to follow the example of another superstar
“Yeah my second name is Messett alright and some call me Messi. But the position I play now is Centre mid so I try and emulate a player who plays in that position and for me at the moment the player I want to become is Luka Modric. A great role model. He works hard and leads by example. Something I hope I am doing for this squad”
Gary isn’t the only Wicklow representative on the team. He is joined by Darragh Snell, Ryan Nolan and Sam Carroll. So when Gary is asked what 3 Wicklow athletes he would select to join him for a night out he immediately picks his fellow Wicklowmen! With a semi-final against Ukraine to come on Friday and potentially a final to follow, hopefully Gary and the lads will have a trophy to parade with them!