Evans leads by example to secure Rio spot
The Irish Paralympic football team guaranteed their place at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games yesterday with a brilliant 1-0 win over Argentina in their classification match at the Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships in St George's Park in England.
Gerard Glynn's Irish side will now progress to a 5th/6th place play-off this afternoon against the winner of England versus USA. The only goal of the game was scored with just five minutes remaining by captain Luke Evans.
Placings are very important at these Championships as anything above an eighth place finish completely guarantees 2016 Rio Paralympic Games qualification.
Ireland missed out on qualification for London 2012 by one spot so to secure a place on the plane to the eight-team tournament for 2016 is an achievement that cannot be understated.
Speaking after the game, an elated Irish manager Barry Ferguson said: "We're just delighted with the result. The lads didn't actually play that well but worked so hard to dig out the result. They did exactly what they had to do to win the game. They have worked so hard over the last number of years and months to secure Paralympic Games qualification, they deserve it - we're so proud of them."
Irish goalscorer and captain Luke Evans added: "It really hurt missing out on the London 2012 Games so to guarantee our place at Rio 2016 with that win is massive, it means so much to us." Argentina are one place higher than Ireland in the world rankings at sixth and the game was as tight as anticipated.
Dillon Sheridan tormented the Argentinian defence while Gary Messett had an immense battle with his counterpart at midfield.
However, with just five minutes to go, Sheridan sent a super ball into the box which saw Evans convert with a brave header low to the left.