‘The cattle passed no remarks on my new situation’ – powerchair football star
From a farming background, Sean Cuddy, is an enthusiastic member of the Midlands United Powerchair Football Club.
The Camross, Co. Laois man has been a wheelchair user since 1991 when he was involved in a road accident.
He had pulled into the hard shoulder on his way home to sleep after a long day at work when a car hit his from behind, leaving him paralysed.
However, Sean who is married to Anne, with two children, Scott and Sarah, has gone on to lead a full life.
Sean’s father and uncle had played with Camross GAA which has won 27 senior county championships to date.
Having achieved at U21 and junior championship level, he continued to support the club and follow the fortunes of his children who play hurling and camogie at underage level.
A suggestion from his liaison officer at Spinal Injuries Ireland to attend a try-out day for powerchair soccer piqued his interest.
“It was a fun day and I haven’t looked back since,” he said.
The sport is fast and competitive. Lots of training was needed to get up to speed with the other team members.
“The lads, though much younger than me, are very experienced – as are the coaches. They have been very generous with their time and encouragement,” he said.
The midlands club was founded in 2009, with support from Westmeath Sports Partnership.
Taking part as Ireland’s national league winners, the midlands members expected to do well at the tournament.
However, it turned out to be a significant learning curve as they realised their style of football was not up to European standard and that they needed to “drastically change”.
2014 saw the midlands club soar to the top of the Irish league by introducing a passing game and by bringing greater speed and skill to powerchair soccer in Ireland.
The success story continued, with players chosen for the Irish international teams. They also received caps from U16, U18 grades and they made huge strides at senior level.
In 2016, the Midlands United Club travelled to Denmark to compete in its second European championship – they did well in the tournament and again, learned a lot along the way.
The club was rocked to the core and midlands lost the national league.
However, members persevered and this year they are getting ready for their third European Champions League in October.
“Power and pride being our motto, we will keep striving for success.
“With the determination of our players and coaches, we hope to do well in our next tournament and have a successful 2018/2019 national league,” said head coach, Mike Donogher.
Catherine Donogher is assistant coach. The other players are: Thomas Donogher (captain); Sean Donogher; Thomas Winter; and Conor Troy.
The team trains once a week for an hour-and-a-half in Mucklagh community hall, just outside Tullamore.
Sean grew up alongside his grandparents and extended family and learned the farming way of life by being involved from an early age.
As the eldest son, he was instrumental in the running of the farm, and once he got behind the wheel of the tractor, there was no stopping him.
These tractor skills stood to Sean when he gained off-farm employment, as a teenager, where in worked in timber felling with his uncle.
Sean’s spinal injury put an end to that physical work – but he always retained his enthusiasm for the farm.
He continues to support and help in anyway he can.
Many wheelchairs were ruined out around the fields and the cattle showed no surprise at my new situation.
In recent years, Sean has turned his attention to horticulture – going back to his roots and the traditions instilled in him by his grandfather.
“It started with a few drills of potatoes, a frame of peas and some spring salads and developed into a purpose-built polytunnel with raised beds,” he said.
Meanwhile, he enjoys getting out to powerchair soccer.
It’s great to be part of a team again, training, practicing, travelling to games and meeting other players.
“There have been wins and losses, and we’re always looking to the next game – especially heading to Denmark in October to compete in the European cup, where hopefully I can play my part in a successful outcome,” he said.
To raise funds for the team, a big draw and auction will be held at Bergin’s Camross Inn on August 25.
Tickets cost €5 and prizes include: hotel stays; All-Ireland Senior Football Championship tickets; and luxury hampers. The auction will also include a purebred Beltex ram, donated by Sean’s brother, Alan.