Under-19 Learning Disability Home Nations Championship 2018
Scotland 4-1 Wales – Tuesday, 3 April, 2pm
Scotland 5-0 Republic of Ireland – Wednesday 4 April, 2pm
Scotland v Northern Ireland – Friday, 6 April, 11am
Seaview Stadium, Belfast
The Scotland Under-19 Learning Disability squad will kick-off the defence of their Home Nations title tomorrow as they aim to take home the title for the third season running, for what would be Scotland’s fifth Championship in the past six years.
The Scotland Learning Disability squad is a key component of the Scottish FA’s Para-Football strategy, providing an aspirational target for Para-Football players with learning disabilities in Scotland.
Under the guidance of Head Coach Gary MacDonald, the team romped to victory in last year’s Home Nations Championship, winning all three matches and conceding only one goal in the process.
With only eight players from last year’s all-conquering side returning to defend their title this season and eleven new players in the squad, retaining the title will be a challenge.
What are the thoughts of the Head Coach?
Gary MacDonald combines his role as Head Coach of the team with his role as Community projects Officer at the Scottish FA. He has worked with the squad for a number of years, first as assistant coach, before taking on the top job two years ago. Under his guidance the team have won back-to-back championships.
Gary MacDonald: “It’s great to see how the squad they have grown and developed in the programme since I have been involved. We want to continue that progress, but there is the challenge of the squad changing year on year.
“I would expect to compete this year, though I would also expect there to be a target on our back having won the last two and having been so strong last year.
“The feedback from the other nations was that our side last year was the strongest team they had seen at that tournament since it began in 2008, so it will be tough to emulate that success.
“Beyond the competition, it is important to see the team develop and show what can be achieved through Para-Football.
“Like any other strand of the game, Para-Football needs that aspirational aspect of something to look up to and be inspired by.
“The hope is our that our international squad will do that – not just for the learning disability group, but for all Para-Football groups and the success that this squad has enjoyed over the last few years is hopefully a tremendous inspiration to Para-Football groups.”
The team warmed up for the tournament with two fixtures in the past fortnight, playing both Dumbarton United and East Stirlingshire’s Under-17s teams. They triumphed 2-1 over Dumbarton United at the Falkirk Stadium, Cameron Steer and Lewis McGinty scoring the goals, before securing a 1-1 draw with East Stirlingshire at Largs, with James McTaggart netting for Scotland.
Players to watch
Defender Cameron Steer has proven to be an instrumental player within the squad in the build-up to the championships. The energetic player is currently situated in the US, where he is on a joint academic and soccer scholarship at Medaille College in Buffalo, New York.
Goalkeeper Reece Pollock is a veteran of the tournament. The Vale of Leven Under-21s keeper played all three games in Scotland’s march to the title last season, conceding only one goal in the process. He will be vital to Scotland’s hopes of defending the title.
Reece Pollock, Scottish FA Central
Dylan Cramb, Scottish FA Central
Greg Brown, Scottish FA South West
Dylan Brown, Scottish FA Central
Cameron Steer, Scottish FA South West
Matthew Mitchell, Scottish FA South East
Owen Anderson, Scottish FA South East
Liam Boyle, Scottish FA West
Struan McLean, Scottish FA West
Jake Fraser, Scottish FA South West
James McTaggart, Scottish FA West
Jakob McDonald, Scottish FA Central
Francis Hollern, Scottish FA Central
Liam Harvey, Scottish FA East
Kevin Gallacher, Scottish FA West
Barry Ferguson, Scottish FA South East
Lewis McGinty, Scottish FA Central
Ronan Duncan, Scottish FA East