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Soccer is one of the most famous and loved games around the world. It is not a secret that soccer players have a lot of fans and earn a lot of money. But not in all countries, soccer has the same history. If we check Ireland, we will see that the history of this famous game is rather not common there.
Everything started for Ireland around 1878, when McAlery, a famous merchant from Belfast, saw this game played in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. He was so impressed by the game, that he invited two Scottish teams, Caledonians and Queens Park, to his native city Belfast, and launched the first in the history of the country football club with a single called Cliftonville. All these events took place between 1878 and 1879.
Further, the only team – participant of the mentioned Irish football club, gets its first victory in the game with Knock, which took place on the 1st of November 1879. But a real turning point for Irish soccer was in 1880 when in Belfast, the Irish Football Association was founded.
Cliftonville was among its founders. The Irish Cup was a logical development, and it took place soon after the launching of the Irish Football Association. And in 1882, the Irish team took part in the first match on an international level, where it lost heavily to England, with the result 13 – 0.
However, a 10 years long break followed further, when no significant changes were observed in the football field in Ireland. Only in 1890, the Irish Football League was established, with Cliftonville as one of its participants. Further, until 1924, there were no significant moments to mention in the history of soccer in Ireland. After the country s division into two parts: Northern Ireland, while another was given the name of the Irish Free State, only the soccer team of Northern Ireland was playing for the country.
Meanwhile, the Irish State was working on the establishment of its independent Football Association of the Irish Free State (the FAIFs). Only in 1024, when FIFA finally recognized the FAIFs, the national soccer team of the Irish State debuted during the Summer Olympics in 1924 with a victory in a match with Bulgarians. It announced the start of the two Football Associations of the Country: one, the Irish Football Association (the IFA) located in Belfast, due to the mentioned historical reasons, and another one, the Football Association of the Irish State, or the FAIFs, located in Dublin.
However, two Football Associations-rivals couldn’t handle the football business in a friendly way. Each association believed and claimed that they are the only legal entity of this kind managing toe football affairs in the entire country. They used to select players, form teams independently, and it started to come to contradictions. For example, many players didn’t mind playing for both Irish teams and this fact. In turn, it was causing even more misunderstanding not only on a national but on an international level, as well. This situation was not handled until 1950 when a World Cup Qualification organized by the FIFA started. Both Irish teams entered the mentioned qualification, with four players being on both sides. So, FIFA took the decision to intervene.
So, it was in 1953, when the FIFA made a historical declaration that only the FAI team can be called a national team of Ireland, while their Northern rivals should have been referred to like the team of Northern Ireland. So, two separate teams are formed, with a prohibition to the IFA to hire soccer players from the South. Since then, the team of the Republic of Ireland took place in several international competitions, with several victories and losses, but until 1965, no significant changes were observed.
The next turning point in the history of Irish soccer was in 1965 when the national team announced Shay Brennan from Manchester United as one of their soccer players. Before this fact, only players could play for the country who were born in Ireland. In the case with Shay, it was announced, he was selected because one of his parents was Irish. Rules for accepting players in the national team became not so strict. Further, even some soccer players were accepted whose grandparents were Irish.
In 1969, Mick Meagan took the managerial position of the IFA. He ended up as the worst manager in the history of this game in the country. Mick Meagan is known now as one of the managers who did practically nothing for the progress of the national team. After five matches from six were lost, and with no further improvements until 1972, Mick was dismissed, and Liam Tuohy came into his place. However, a new manager, even though he made some improvements in both soccer facilities as well as into the procedures of soccer policies for domestic matches, could not improve the playing abilities of the team.
Only in 1986, the national team of Ireland started achieving amazing results when Jack Charlton took the manager’s position. During his management, Ireland started winning. It passed qualifications for major soccer tournaments, including Euro 1988, even took a semi-final place.
Further, managers were replacing one another, and the team success level was fluctuating depending on who was leading it. However, since 1986, the national team of the Republic of Ireland is constantly ranked as one of the rather decent teams. It has been a constant participant in many international competitions, including the World Cup as well as the Olympics, and in some cases, it was very close to a victory.
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- Neil Ahern. Irish Independent. “All Clubs Back FAI`s League Role”. (2019). [online] Available at https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/all-clubs-back-fais-league-role-26658730.html [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]
- Irish Independent. “Longford Town v Athlone Town FAI Cup Derby Postponed”. (2019). [online] Available at https://www.independent.ie/sport/soccer/league-of-ireland/longford-town-v-athlone-town-fai-cup-derby-postponed-38392033.html [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]
- FAI. “FAI History Chapter 36 – WC 1998 Qualifying Tournament” (2009).: [online] Available at https://www.fai.ie/domestic/news/fai-history-chapter-36-wc-1998-qualifying-tournament [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]