JAMES BOYLE WAS IN Cappagh Hospital to have a new prosthetic leg fitted when a poster caught his eye.
It was in 2011 and the Irish Amputee Team were recruiting and had organised a get-together in Clonsilla.
Boyle had his left leg amputated when he was just six years old and regularly played football in school. This, though, was something entirely different.
Boyle is in his Leaving Certificate year at Rosses Community School and since that day in 2011 has won 25 caps for the Irish Amputee Team, scoring nine goals and claiming four assists.
One of those goals came in the Amputee World Cup in Mexico in December 2014, when he scored a penalty against Uzbekistan in a 6-1 defeat. Ireland also lost 2-0 against Brazil and 2-0 against Ukraine, but the experience is one that lives long in the memory.
“We prepared fantastically for it and Mexico was really just one big honour,” Boyle says.
“results didn’t go our way, but it was unbelievable. We were almost like professionals the way we prepared for it and the work we put in. The results were in no way a reflection of the effort that was put in, but we’ll be very motivated now for the next World Cup.”
Boyle was born with fibular hemimelia, a birth defect where the fibula bone is missing.
“Up to the age of six, they tried to put frames on the leg to lengthen it, but it was probably clear that wasn’t going to work,” he says.
His parents, Daniel and Breid, made the decision. They’d have their son’s leg amputated.
“All I really remmeber is that everyone came over to the house the day before,” Boyle says now.
“I knew I was getting my leg off, but I didn’t know how serious the procedure was going to be. I was lost for a day or two and didn’t really know what would come after it.
“At primary school, I played away on crutches. I never got special treatment and that’s a great way to be. I love that. I’d hate to be treated any different.”
Boyle was described as ‘the youngest and most naturally gifted player in the squad’ ahead of the World Cup in 2014.
Christy McElligott is the Ireland manager while the backroom team comprises Alan Heary and Mandy King.
Boyle says: “I was young enough when I had my leg amputated, so it’s been easy enough – at six years of age it probably doesn’t have that big an impact.
“Like, some of these boys lost their legs in their 20s.
“I grasped the football fairly easy, but it’s got so technical now. It’s all now about the more technical stuff. In Turkey, for example, the players are all getting paid.”
Sport is never far awy in the family and Boyle says a lot of his inspiration comes from his grandfather, Hudie McCole.
His cousin Paul ‘Yank’ Boyle is on the Letterkenny Rovers panel that reached the FAI Intermediate Cup semi-final and another cousin Mark McCole is a rising boxer at Dungloe ABC.
Boyle’s father, Daniel, is the kitman for the Irish Amputee Team now.
“He persevered with me and took me to Dublin every couple of weeks,” Boyle says. “He is really into it and I owe him so much.”
The Irish team is facing England this weekend and will go to Poland for a tournament in the summer.
The Leaving Certificate means Boyle hasn’t been taking as much an active part in the squad as he had done previously, but he’s still very much a part of the plans.
“I wouldn’t change it,” he says.
“Sometimes you have the ‘Aww God, I hate this’ thought, but then at other times it’s like a blessing.
“If I’d been born with two legs, life would have been so much different. This has led me on a fantastic path. I definitely wouldn’t change a thing.”Tags: