It’s not a pursuit for the faint-hearted as specially designed wheelchairs crash off each other but it’s the fast-paced passion and combative nature of wheelchair rugby which sets it apart.
The Gaelic Warriors Wheelchair Rugby Club, founded in Clontarf, Dublin, in 1997, became the very first wheelchair rugby club in Ireland and it has driven the sport nationally.
There are four clubs on the island today and the sport is growing.
Gaelic Warriors club captain and Chairman Alan Lynch explains why it means so much to so many: “We take our sport seriously while also enjoying the social aspect and everyone who comes along will get game-time on the court. I, myself, had an accident when I was 14 and broke two vertebrae in my neck. Through rehab, I came across wheelchair rugby and have really embraced it as have the others in the club.”
The club has both male and female members and takes part in a national league. A number of the players, including Alan, represent Ireland at International level.
Specially designed offensive and defensive chairs are imported from the likes of the United States and New Zealand and can cost around €5,000 each depending on the level of quality desired.
And so, the award of National Lottery Good Causes funding of €25,000 to the club in 2015 was of great assistance.
“It allowed us to buy some chairs for players and to get essential maintenance for others. Because of the physical nature of the sport there are often broken parts so the lottery funding meant we could get those fixed,” explains Alan.
Good for both the body and the mind, wheelchair rugby is helping many Irish men and women put their lives back together and give them a real focus for the future.
“It gets people active again, it keeps them fit and instead of focussing on their disability they’re concentrating on doing well in a game and for their teammates”, says Alan Lynch.