James McClean pitches in for kids with Down's syndrome

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Media captionJames McClean plays against Londonderry's Oxford Bulls

Republic of Ireland footballer James McClean has surprised a team of children with Down's syndrome following a social media appeal.

Londonderry's Oxford Bulls was formed in October 2015 but have struggled to find another team to play against.

A plea was put out on social media several weeks ago to try to find them some competitors.

The team's manager then received a message from West Brom star McClean, which he thought was a "wind-up".

"Out of the blue I get a message from the man himself, James McClean, on Facebook," Kevin Morrison said.

Image copyright Kevin Morrison
Image caption The Ireland winger left the young team 'star-struck'

"To be honest I thought it was one of those fake accounts, that somebody was taking the hand out of me.

"He said: 'I'm playing a match on Tuesday night, I'll be back in Derry at lunchtime on Wednesday - how does that sound?'"


Football strips and runners at the ready, it was still a surprise for Kevin Morrison's son when one of his idols joined them at the city's indoor football centre - and brought a few mates to make up a team.

West Brom forward McClean had featured in the Republic's friendly defeat by Iceland just 24 hours earlier.

Image copyright Kevin Morrison
Image caption Adam is a big fan of the Ireland forward

"My wee boy, Adam, would be a big fan of his. James walked in and Adam was standing at the edge of the pitch," Mr Morrison said.

"He pointed at him, then he pointed again and then the jaw opened. He's was kind of star-struck for the rest of the game.

"I think it was a fantastic day, we're going to have some great memories to take away from it."

All the young footballers have a passion for the sport and the team has been set up with the help of the Foyle Down's Syndrome Trust.

It provides a wide range of activities for young people and adults with the condition.

'Phone is melting'

Despite McClean's big match experience, Mr Morrison told the BBC that his young side gave the forward a good run for his money.

"He [McLean] had a fantastic attitude and they loved him for it," he said.

"The lads had a ball and James was an absolute gentleman, we couldn't believe our luck."

The team had initially tried to find a squad with similar abilities, but with no success.

After this week, the Bulls are now being offered potential tournaments against the likes of Manchester City, Everton and Liverpool.

Image copyright Kevin Morrison
Image caption Oxford Bulls star Keegan enjoyed the surprise match

"You have no idea the offers we've had, it's been crazy," Mr Morrison said.

"My phone is nearly melting. I've had hundreds of messages from mainstream football clubs right across the island, right over to England.

"[Northern Ireland winger] Paddy McCourt came down to help in training on Sunday as well, so it has been an amazing week and the boys have really responded to it.

"They've taken to it like ducks to water and I think we could have serious footballers on our hands before long," he added.

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