Monday 23 July 2018

Lynch aiming to make Ireland's first World Championship

Wheelchair Rugby

Alan Lynch. Photo: Julien Behal Photography
Alan Lynch. Photo: Julien Behal Photography

Barry Lennon

For Ireland international Alan Lynch, it's clear what first attracted him to take up wheelchair rugby.

"It's the only full-contact disabled sport. It's encouraged.

Even if someone doesn't have the ball you can smash the living daylights out of them," the Louth man explains. "It's a mixed gender sport. It takes in everyone as long as you've got three or more limbs impaired. (We've) people with spinal injuries, birth defects and even with brittle bone syndrome."

Lynch began the sport after a fall from a tree left him paralysed from the shoulder down when he was aged just 14.

"I was just playing in the tree, I was about 35 feet up. I grabbed for a branch and it came off in me hand and off I went, straight down," he recalls. Lynch spent three months recovering in bed following the accident near the family home before discovering wheelchair rugby at the National Rehabilitation Clinic.

An underage footballer with Glyde Rangers in Louth, he first turned his hand to badminton, tennis, ping-pong and basketball in hospital before finding wheelchair rugby.

The four-a-side sport is played on a basketball court with teams awarded a try (one point) for carrying the ball across their opponents' try-line. "The only real similarity to able-bodied rugby is the contact nature of the sport. It borrows rules from rugby, basketball, ice hockey and American football," Lynch says.

The 34-year-old hopes to lead Ireland to their first World Championship at the qualifiers held near Lucerne in Switzerland in two weeks' time.

They will be vying for one of eight slots remaining for the summer tournament but must get there first - a challenge when travelling with specialist wheelchairs.

"For international or good club level, you're starting at around €4,500 that goes up to €7,500. If you really want to go up to the Rolls Royce of chairs," Lynch explains.

"They're custom-made. It's not as if you go into Elverys and buy a size nine shoe."

The National Lottery have funded new wheelchairs for Lynch and his Dublin-based club Gaelic Warriors.

This is a major expense for the club, although Lynch, who works in the family joinery in the Wee County, can make running repairs when needed.

The Tallanstown native also hopes to captain his Warriors side to their third title i -a row in the Irish league - where they face three other teams. However, world qualification remains his focus for now.

"We're going over there with high expectations of ourselves. We fully expect to qualify to the World Championships," he says.

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