15 athletes in Ireland Down Syndrome team qualify to participate in the SUDS European Championships in Padua, Italy from 3-10 September

  • 8 athletes qualify to participate in Ireland’s first ever national Down Syndrome Futsal team attending the SUDS European Championships


  • Athletes will also participate in artistic swimming and athletics competitions


15 Irish athletes have qualified to travel to Padua, Italy, in September to participate in the Sport Union for Athletes with Down Syndrome (SUDS) European Championships, including Ireland’s first national Down Syndrome Futsal team. The athletes will compete in a range of sports including Athletics, Artistic Swimming and Futsal.


The multi-sport championship in Italy will take place from 3rd to 10th of September with athletes from 22 countries competing. The event will offer those with Down Syndrome a unique opportunity to participate against their peers. The 15 athletes are competing in the following sports:


  • Futsal is a form of five-aside indoor football played with a smaller, heavier ball than soccer and is an ideal sport for Ireland as it is played from October to March. The Ireland Down Syndrome Futsal team of eight players were selected from a player pool of 80 through talent days held all over Ireland.


This will be the first time that Ireland will have a Futsal team participating. The Louth Meath branch of Down Syndrome Ireland and the FAI’s Football for All programme have been working to develop the Futsal team among players with Down Syndrome, coached by Paul Smyth.

  • Athletics – Three athletes have qualified to participate in the athletics competition in Italy and will take part in the 100m, 200m, 800m, 1500m and triathlon races. For this first-time participation, a second for Fergal Cosgrove, personal best times are in the scope.


  • Artistic swimming, formerly called synchronised swimming, is a very technical sport. Four swimmers have been selected for their first-time participation in the combo event and they have been training for two years to perfect their skills for the European Championships.

Often, athletes with Down Syndrome compete and train within mixed disability teams or with other athletes with an intellectual disability. Because athletes with Down syndrome have additional functional disabilities, they are not competing on a level playing field with other athletes with an intellectual disability. This is very obvious in team sports. The additional functional disabilities include, shorter stature, shorter limbs, hypotonia (low muscle tone) and smaller hands.


As a result, the SUDS European Championships give these athletes an opportunity to participate with and against their peers with Down Syndrome on a level playing field.

The 15 Irish athletes competing are:



  • Fergal Cosgrove – Co. Meath
  • Liam Foley – Co. Meath
  • Elisha Gallagher – Co. Dublin


Artistic Swimming:

  • Fintan Bray – Co. Westmeath
  • Dúalta Callan – Co. Meath
  • Katie Gaynor – Co. Meath
  • Eleanor Murray – Co. Meath



  • David Crawford – Co. Donegal
  • Josh Hennessy – Co. Dublin
  • Cian Kelleher – Co. Cork
  • Jamie Linden – Co. Louth
  • Micheál McCloy – Co. Armagh
  • Daniel O’Reilly – Co. Donegal
  • Hughie Sweeney – Co. Donegal
  • Sean Toolin – Co. Waterford


Tessa van Heerden, Sport Coordinator at Down Syndrome Ireland Louth and Meath branch, says: “Disability sport development in Ireland has come a long way, especially in intellectual disability sport. By participating in SUDS European Championships, we are shining a light on the high functioning athletes with Down Syndrome and setting up pathways for the participation in further events. We are proud of our 15 athletes for their training and progress so far and are delighted to be heading to Italy for this event.”


The team will be departing Dublin Airport for Italy on the 2nd of September, having fundraised extensively to compete at the European Championships.


Upcoming training days taking place before the team leave for the championships are as follows:

  • Futsal
    • 10am – 12pm, 12th August, Corduff Sport Centre, Dublin
    • 9am – 12pm, 26th August, Corduff Sport Centre, Dublin
  • Artistic Swimming

Land Training

    • 5:30pm – 7pm, 14th August, Aura Trim
    • 5:30pm – 7pm, 21st August, Aura Trim
    • 5:30pm – 7pm, 28th August, Aura Trim

Pool Training

    • 7pm – 8pm, 14th August, Aura Trim
    • 7pm – 8pm, 21st August, Aura Trim
    • 7pm – 8pm, 28th August, Aura Trim


For more information about SUDS European Championships, please visit:


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