The smile on Conor McGrotty’s face speaks a thousands words.
Conor, (23), is from Limavady but every Tuesday evening he packs his wheelchair into the back of the car and along with his dedicated mum, Bronagh, they travel to Derry for their weekly training session with the North West Eagles Wheelchair Basketball Club.
Conor, who is studying for a qualification in Creative Media Production, has spina bifida and hydrocephalus and has been confined to a wheelchair for all of his life.
“I love sport in general but wheelchair basketball is so much fun,” says Manchester United fanatic, Conor.
“I like wheelchair basketball because not only does it help me to stay fit but it also provides an opportunity to meet other people.”
The North West Eagles was borne out of the charity Shine who work with people and families affected by spina bifida. That was three years ago but recently the funding for the Eagles was cut but the members are now going it alone.
“We want to hear from anyone with an interest in getting involved with the club,” says Head Coach Diane Gillon.
“When we were under the umbrella of Shine we had to focus our work on people with spina bifida but now for someone to take part in wheelchair basketball the only criteria they have to meet is that they have to be unable to compete in the running game of basketball.
“So, even if you’re not in a wheelchair, as long as you can’t compete in the running game, you can compete for the Eagles,” smiled Diane.
In 2012 London played host to the Special Olympics and one of the most eye-catching and memorable sports was wheelchair basketball.
Unforgiving is certainly a word sports journalists would use to describe wheelchair basketball and with competitors permitted to use their wheelchairs to challenge for possession.
“Wheelchair basketball is very physical,” said Conor. “But I really need to stress that the Eagles want to hear from people who either interested in competing or those who are just interested in trying out a new sport.”
Conor, who also plays Hurley for Ulster, urged anyone with an interest in either volunteering or taking part in training with the Eagles to contact them.
“We really want to take wheelchair basketball to the next level in the North West,” said Conor.
“We know that there’s an interest out there but it’s all about getting out name out there and getting known.”
One message that Conor and Diane were keen to get across was their appeal for special codes from bottles of Lucozade Sport. The more codes collected by the Eagles the more sports equipment they will be able get for the club.
“The promotion with Lucozade Sport runs until the end of next month so if anyone would like to pass us on their codes all they have to do is go to our Facebook page and message them on. The more codes we get the better quality of equipment we will be able to get our hands on,” explained Conor.
The Eagles are also in the process of fulfilling the criteria required for them to be able to apply for funding but in the meantime, Diane said they would welcome any interest from any individuals or businesses interested in helping out.
“We are starting to go it alone but until we fulfil the funding criteria the Eagles are going to need as much help as they can get. If anyone would like to sponsor the club or perhaps even volunteer then we would be more than delighted to hear from them.”
For more information on the North West Eagles Wheelchair Basketball Club or to volunteer or donate visit the club’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/groups/NorthWestEaglesWheelchairBasketball or follow them on Twitter @NorthWestEagles