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LIT Graduate and Staff Member Aaron Tier has been Representing the Republic of Ireland in the IFCPF World Cup in Seville, Spain.

This is his story so far.

Game Day 1 – Versus Finland Monday 8th July 2019
After a year of preparation, the time had finally arrived to do the business. The conditions on Monday were extremely tough with temperatures reaching 30 degrees celsius. The warm-up alone was energy sapping with the advice of conserving energy levels ringing in my ears I was struggling to concentrate.

We headed back into the dressing room for finals words of encouragement from our manager Paul Breen. As I walked back into the dressing room I saw my jersey hanging up and waited to hear my name in the starting line-up. When I heard my name among the substitutes I accepted the reasons due to classifications (process to determine the impact a player’s disability has on them when playing and is categorized across 3 levels FT1, FT2 & FT3) we needed to get specific players game time. I was playing my part knowing I would be needed at some point. I was ready go whenever called upon.

Halftime came and we were 3-0 up and I made my entrance to the World Cup. With goal difference playing a big part of who progresses from our group we knew the max of 10 goals was needed. Final whistle, Ireland 10 – Finland 0, job done and my goal contributed. Focus very quickly now turned to preparation for game 2 against Iran in just two days’ time.

Game Day 2 – Versus Iran Wednesday 10th July 2019
Following Iran’s defeat to the USA on Monday we knew this was going to be a mammoth task but one we were confident we could take on. On Tuesday we were taken through an analysis meeting where Paul gave us the plan that would see us defeat Iran for the first time in our history. All the players bought into the game plan.

Due to an 11am kick off the temperatures were hotter than Monday and this was again going to play a huge part in the game. Warm up done and back in the dressing room Paul names his starting team and this time I made the first 7. For those minutes before you go out on the pitch everyone has their own ways of preparing, for me its visualisation. I see myself scoring, defending well, working hard and winning.

As expected, Iran dominated much of the possession but this was part of our game plan, biding our time to catch them on one of our few counter opportunities. We managed to successfully execute one counter attack resulting in us taking the lead. Half time the score-line read Iran 0 ROI 1, it was nearly unbelievable but we were definitely worthy of the lead.

The second half heat and the work we put in throughout the first half really started to take its toll on us and I could feel it in my legs. The 38th minute saw a dubious penalty awarded to Iran which they scored and then a coming together with me and the Iranian striker just outside the box gave them a free. At this point I realised my finger was dislocated and play stopped while I was strapped. I continued on but was off the pitch for the free kick which unfortunately led to their second goal. Now chasing the game, we conceded a deflected goal in last 5 minutes and a fourth in injury time. These two goals will impact what we need to do against the USA on Friday where we now must win by two clear goals to progress to the last 8. That game kicks off at 18:10 Irish time.

Game Day 3 – Versus USA Friday 12th July 2019
With the USA leading a wide open group and us sitting in 2nd place on goal difference and Iran hot on our heels, we knew that nothing more than a win of two goals or more would guarantee us through to the knock out phase of the tournament. Yet again the weather would play its part, as it had all tournament, with temperatures well into the 30’s. The game was to take place at 7:10pm which we hoped would see the temperatures a little more tolerable. By the time we reached the venue the clouds had come in and the searing heat had abated and conditions were perfect. I felt this was going to be our day as we were due some luck in this tournament and against the USA. Our last two games against the same opposition had been very close with us coming out on the wrong-end each time. A score had to be settled and we were ready for it!

The game kicked off at a frantic pace with us retaining a lot of possession. We limited the USA to shots from long range, however, against the run of play the USA number 9 shifted the ball right and stroke a thunderbolt from 30 metres out. Taking numerous deflections, it settled in the top corner of our goal, USA lead 1-0. We knew that our reaction now would decide if we were to remain in this game or crumble to a humiliating defeat.

We pressed the USA on many occasions in the remainder of the first half, however, our shots were mostly from long range and at heights that favoured the USA keeper who was a giant on fire. Halftime came, allowing for some well-earned relief in the dressing room. Some frank words from Paul reignited our belief that we were still in the game and could take all three points and get the three goals we needed. We kicked off the second half and pulled one back immediately through Dillon with a fantastic low drive to their keeper’s bottom left corner, Ireland 1 USA 1. Then ensued a bizarre 5 minutes which saw a penalty claim denied for us and then a vicious tackle by the USA number 9 on Joe Markey. Tensions rose and boiled over resulting in the USA number 5 head butting Oisin Merritt. USA were now down to 6 players, this was our chance! We dominated possession for the remainder of the game with fast movement and passing trying to open up a very resilient USA defence. Chance after chance the USA threw their bodies in the way and their keeper was awesome saving them on many occasions and in my mind the man of the match. Fulltime came, Rep Ireland 1 USA 1, it was not meant to be. We returned to a much deflated dressing room after the game as we all knew this had been a real chance to come out of the group of death and qualify for the top 8 quarter finals. We had finished 3rd in the group with the USA and Iran taking the two knockout spots.

Game Day 4 – Versus Japan Sunday 14th July 2019
Having come to terms with not making the top 8 Paul set out new objective of finishing the best of the rest and claiming 9th place convincingly, showing the world that we did not deserve to be in the bottom half of this World Cup. I was informed by Paul that I would not be used in this game as I would be needed in potentially more difficult games later in the tournament. However I still had role to play motivating other squad members who were starting and showing everyone that this is a squad game and all 14 players need to be involved whether on the pitch or on the bench. The Japanese as expected were well coached and organised in defence. They made it tough for us but we eventually broke them down winning 3-0.

Game Day 5 – Versus Canada Tuesday 16th July 2019
We knew this game would not be a matter of just turning up as memories of 2017 in Argentina were fresh in my mind. On that particular day we underestimated Canada and managed to salvage a 3-3 draw with me scoring from 30 metres and also getting sent off. Today we were certainly not underestimating the potential threat this team would bring.

Back in the starting 7 I was eager to get playing again. Thankfully the weather was kind to us as the morning cloud had not yet disappeared giving us a balmy 28 degrees. Frustratingly our start was not what we planned as a Canadian free kick from 30 metres nestled again in the top corner of our goal. Again, we found ourselves behind early in a game and our reaction would be vital. We dominated the game for the rest of the half, with chance after chance but much like the USA game we found ourselves against a goalkeeper having one of those days. We went into the dressing room 1-0 down and frustration was starting to kick in. A slight tactical tweak by Paul for the second half saw him move our wingers slightly higher creating more space for Dillon to receive balls direct from defence or midfield.

We started the second half with an intensity that had been lacking in the last two games winning an early free kick just outside the box. Knowing the keeper was week on his right, the position of the free kick was perfect for Dillon to have a strike, which he did brilliantly! Ireland 1 Canada 1. Game on!

We continued with the game plan and moved their players one way and then the other, seeking that opportunity to penetrate the defence. A run by myself gave Dillon the opportunity to fake a pass and turn his player, slotting home from 10 metres under the keepers sprawling legs. Ireland 2 Canada 1.

With the Canadian’s heads starting to drop we took a hold of the game, keeping the ball moving and tiring out our opponents. On one occasion the ball was kept for 20 passes where every player including Mark in the goal had at least one touch and on the 20th pass Joe Markey struck a screamer from 20 metres to cement our victory. At the same time Germany sealed a close 2-1 victory against Australia on Pitch 2. Bring on the Germans for a 9th/10th place play-off!

Game Day 6 – Versus Germany Thursday 18th July 2019
Our 6th game in 10 days ended up on the hottest day of the tournament with the temperatures at a sweltering 38 degrees. Playing on an astro-turf surface was not going to make things any easier, we knew this was going to be our toughest test. The Germans were arguably the most improved team within the bottom 8 of this tournament. Paul ensured we did not loose focus and reminded us of what we had achieved in the last 13 competitive games, 10 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses against Iran and Ukraine, two of the best teams in the world. If our form was reflected in a league table we would have accumulated a staggering 31 points from a possible 39.

Paul’s team talk was easy for him as he just assured all of us that if we play to our ability and keep to the plan we will win comfortably. The game could not have started any better as Dillon Sheridan found the net after 1 minute. Ireland 1- Germany 0. However, a screamer from 30 metres and a very unfortunate mistake from Mark saw us behind after 12 minutes. Ireland 1 Germany 2. Yet again we found ourselves behind and in need of a positive reaction, which was something we now were accustomed to.

Sticking to our game plan we moved the ball quickly and efficiently. The heat was so intense that two water breaks were allowed per half. We were patient and when the opportunities arose, we found Dillon in space and he gladly disposed of the ball on three occasions giving us a 4-2 lead at the break. Ireland 4 Germany 2. Paul was quick to remind us not to take the foot of the gas as goals change games and the next in this game would ultimately determine who wins.

Just like the first half we scored early in the second half after 3 minutes after I calmly slotted home with my trusted left foot from 10 yards. Ireland 5 Germany 2. Not to make things too easy we let the Germans in again through some sloppy play. We knew this was our day and finished the job with two more goals through Joe Markey and Dillon getting his 5th of the game and 12th of the tournament. Ireland 7 Germany 3. We had achieved our objective of finishing the highest we could, 9th place, after not getting into the top 8.
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