IT'S not every little boy who can tell his friends that his "Daddy plays for Ireland" so when Euro footie fever hit the ABC Club in Dunboyne, Dylan McElligott was proud to put his hand up in class.
Dylan's dad Christy is a founding member of the Irish amputee football team but when he visited Dylan's school, it was more than football that held the class in rapt attention as Christy's 'robot leg' took centre stage.
The children sat in awe as they heard all about Christy’s footballing career, how he lost his leg in an accident, his life with his ‘robot leg’ and how he plays football with and manages the Irish amputee team.
Their story ‘My Daddy plays football for Ireland, based on Christy’s visit has earned the ABC Club in Dunboyne a learning story award from Early Childhood Ireland.
Manager Mag Coogan explained how the visit came about: “We were talking about the European Championships and we have a couple of different nationalities so were were talking about the different teams. The children were really interested particularly in the Irish games and Dylan piped up, ‘My daddy plays for Ireland.”
Following Dylan’s request and an invitation from Mag, Christy arrived into the playgroup in his football shorts and sat with the children to talk football.
Immediately, the questions started- “what happened your leg? Is that a robot leg? Is it sore? Does it hurt? Christy told the children that he was in a crash driving a lorry and then he had to learn how to walk with one leg, but then he got a robot leg and now he can walk again.
“Sometimes, I tell a little lie”, he said “and tell people a shark bit it off.” He was informed that it is not good to tell lies! “Christy’s openness and patience gave the children such a wholesome, positive learning experience that that they are sure to remember for a long time,” said Mag.
She said he was “absolutely magnificent with the children”. “It taught the children that just because you have a disability, it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything you want to do.”
Christy McElligott, who lives in Dunshaughlin said most of the children would never have seen an amputee. Before his accident at the age of 30, Christy was an accomplished footballer, playing at Irish Junior International level.
On 15th August 2000, he was driving a small truck to Wexford when an articulated truck collided with him, taking his leg clean off. He somehow managed to jump out the window of the truck and hop 20 feet as the lorries went up in
Christy spent two weeks in Waterford Regional Hospital. “It was tough at first. I quickly had to get used to the idea of being an amputee”. A month or two later he was fitted with his first prosthetic leg. “The first one was horrible. It did what it was supposed to do but it really limited me on what I could do. “The other legs have been much better. I will never be run or be able to play able bodied football again and this was something I had to come to terms with quickly.”
He works as a community coach for Leinster for the FAI’s ‘Football for All’ programme. He set up the Irish amputee football team which he coaches and manages.
“If people see me in long bottoms and see me limping they will ask if I’ve hurt my leg. “If I’m wearing shorts, they see the prosthetic leg they know I’m different. They might ask me how I lost my leg and start a conversation. The biggest problem with adults is they tend to stare rather than ask a question. “They will talk to my leg and still stare. Kids don’t care. the first thing they want to do is touch it and bend it and want to know about it.”
It was only Christy’s second time to go on front of children to talk about his prostethic leg and being an amputee and he thoroughly enjoyed the unique experience. The children sat in awe, as Christy told them all about the team he played for when he had two legs and the team he plays and manages now with one leg.
“I had no intention of taking the leg off but one kid was curious so I took it off and showed them all. They were all like wow, and it was great see that and we all had a conversation about it.”
Dylan (4) kept smiling throughout the visit and was clearly very proud of his daddy. He has now moved on to ‘big school’ in Dunboyne NS, along with his older brother Ryan.