Conor Dufficy: The Moate 15-year-old has been selected for the Irish Under-23 Wheelchair Basketball team. Photo: Paul Molloy.

Hoop Dreams: Moate's Conor to play for Ireland in wheelchair basketball

There are people who might have given up on the dream of playing sport at a high level if they had suffered a life-altering injury at the age of five. Conor Dufficy is not one of those people.

The Moate 15-year-old, who lost his left leg in a lawnmower accident a decade ago, has been making great progress as a wheelchair basketball player, and was recently chosen to represent Ireland at under-23 level in the sport.

He has started training with his international teammates, and in July will be going to Scotland to compete in the Celtic Cup multi-nations competition.

Conor is hoping this will lead on to appearance at the European championships next year, and he has ambitions to continue progressing in the sport in the years to come.

"My dream in the future is to play with the senior (international) team and hopefully to travel and play professionally in leagues around the world," he said.

The third year student at Moate Community School has always had a keen interest in sport.

And, if you follow the GAA, you have certainly seen him on your TV screen.

Since 2021, Conor has been one of those featured in a SuperValu campaign which aims to show that the GAA is inclusive of people from diverse backgrounds.

Having played with Moate All Whites over the years, he felt he would be suited to the campaign.

"They were looking for people with disabilities that play sport, and I fit the description, so I sent in an application," he explained.

"It was a great experience. It's been going on for a couple years now and it shows that you can play a sport with a disability."

His appearance in the campaign is still regularly aired during GAA broadcasts on television, and he continues to get comments from family and friends about it.

"I'll never hear the end of it!" he smiled.

Conor Dufficy at school in Moate. Photo: Paul Molloy.

The accident which resulted in the loss of his leg happened in county Limerick ten years ago this month. Conor had to be airlifted to Cork University Hospital to undergo emergency surgery after his leg got caught under a ride-on lawnmower.

He remembers "a few things" about the accident, but says "I was so young that I wasn't really aware of what was going on at the time".

Not very long afterwards, Conor began playing amputee football and then got involved with the Shannonside Steelers wheelchair basketball club, which, at the time, was based in Athlone's Marist College.

His Dad, Kieran, began coaching with Shannonside Steelers, which now trains in Moate Community Hall, and Conor also joined a senior wheelchair basketball team this year in Clonaslee, Laois.

A resident of Cois Na hAbhainn, Moate, Conor has a younger sister, Holly, who also attends Moate CS.

Both of his parents work in education in Tullamore: His Dad is principal of Scoil Bhríde NS while his Mum, Niamh, works in Coláiste Choilm secondary school.

Conor said he really enjoyed the experience of meeting up with the Irish under-23 wheelchair basketball squad for training recently.

"The standard - the level that you're playing at - is completely different to anything I've ever experienced," he said. "But a lot of (the players) would have known me already, and I think I've been getting on well."

When asked what sports person he admires the most, he mentions the wheelchair basketball player generally regarded as the best in the world: Canada's Patrick Anderson.

"Everyone kind of looks up to him," he said. "He's big and he plays as a centre, basically. That's what I would be playing too, because of my height. I'd be aiming for the basket and trying to score as much as I can."

Conor Dufficy and Tom Lowry, Principal Moate Community School. Photo: Paul Molloy.

Moate CS principal Tom Lowry paid tribute to Conor and said the school was very proud of his achievements to date.

"Conor came to the school three years ago, and is now doing his Junior cycle.

"From the start, the sense I got was that Conor just wanted to get on with things. He just wanted to be treated like everybody else and didn't want any special treatment.

"I'm very proud of him. I think he's turning into a great sportsman, and a really good young man," said Mr Lowry.