A Brief History of Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland

A Brief History of Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland

November 17th 2018 will mark 25 years since
an infamous match between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but we have
to go back more than seventy years before that to understand why one – the Irish Football
Association – became two, the IFA and the Football Association of Ireland. The outbreak of the First World War had caused
the football league of a – then united – Ireland to become regionalised around urban clusters
in Dublin and Belfast. When that war ended, the Irish War of Independence and the Irish
Civil War followed. Cup competitions remained a whole island affair but when a Dublin team,
Shelbourne, had a semi-final game with Glenavon – a town 25 miles from Belfast and a club
that was seen as a favourite of the Ulster based IFA – got to a replay the Irish Football
Association decreed that the replay would again be played in Belfast where the original
fixture had taken place. Officially, this was because a curfew was in place in Dublin,
but an identical one existed in Belfast too. Shelbourne understandably refused to play
the match and it was forfeited. This affront to them was the straw that broke the camel’s
back for many of the teams outside of Ulster – among accusations of financial neglect and
favouritism – and on September 2nd 1921 the Football Association of Ireland was officially
ratified. After the split, the national teams of each
association would not meet each other for nearly sixty years, coming together in two
World Cup qualifiers in 1978 and 1979. The first of these took place in Dublin, and goalkeeper
for the Northern Irish team Pat Jennings remembered how the side ‘got a police escort through
to Dublin…the security guys had us picked up as soon as we went over the border and
took us through to the hotel.’ In the end, the match passed with little incident, though
in the return fixture in Belfast a stone was thrown from the crows, striking Republic of
Ireland midfielder Gerry Daly. Two further match-ups in World Cup qualifiers
followed in the late 1980s but it is the November 1993 head to head that lives in infamy. Northern Ireland’s home base, then named
Windsor Park, had been reduced to a 10,000 capacity due to much needed repairs so the
match would be contested before a reduced crowd.
The Hume-Adams initiative, a forerunner to the peace process which followed, had begun
weeks earlier. Yet the atmosphere in the lead up to the game was far from peaceful. Around a month before the match IRA volunteers
posing as salesmen had bombed a fishmongers on the Shankill Road, a Protestant district
of Belfast. Nine people were killed, including two children. In an act of retaliation, shortly
before hallowe’en members of the Ulster Freedom Fighters entered a bar in Greysteel,
County Derry known to be frequented by the local Catholic population and opened fire,
killing eight people. Discussions about relocating the match to
London or Rome were dismissed and Jack Charlton’s Ireland team were flown the one hundred miles
from Dublin to Belfast due to security concerns around making the journey over land. Their
coach from the airport contained member of Britain’s Special Branch in Football Association
of Ireland tracksuits and the FAI decided not to sell any of their small allocation
of away tickets to the game. Inside the stadium, anti-Catholic chants could
be heard, as well as songs glorifying the recent murder of Catholics at Greysteel. The
Irish flag was not flown, nor its anthem sung before the game. The match itself was the
final qualifying game before the World Cup in the United States and one that the Republic
of Ireland needed a point from in order to secure their spot. Northern Ireland were already
out of the running, but this was a chance to inflict some revenge for their 3-0 loss
at Lansdowne Road in Dublin earlier that year. One Republic of Ireland player, Alan McLoughlin,
told a journalist years later that, although he had started the game as a substitute, ‘the
safest place to be was on the pitch not sitting by the sidelines,’ such was the ferocity
of the feeling from the crowd in the ground. In the end, Charlton’s team got the point
they needed to progress and would go on to beat Italy in a group game at the World Cup
courtesy of Ray Houghton’s famous goal, before eventually going out to the Netherlands. The national associations have met four times
since then – twice in European Championship qualifiers in the mid nineties, then a 1999
fixture to raise money for the victims of the harrowing bombing carried out by dissident
Irish republican elements in Omagh the previous year. Most recently, Northern Ireland were
on the wrong end of a 5-0 drubbing in Dublin in 2011. Let’s hope the 2018 friendly is notable
for strictly footballing reasons.

Author: Kevin Mason

100 thoughts on “A Brief History of Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland

  1. I'm not even irish but what even is northern Ireland… seriously. A country who sold itself to the highest bidder… but unlike what Serbia did the republic should just carry on and prosper seeing has northern Ireland will only fail economically.

  2. Geographically I absolutely love my country. But there is so much which I really hate about Northern Ireland. Bloody hell we haven't had a government in years because we are that petty

  3. I'm from Belfast so I think I should add some insight in this.

    Roughly half of the population of northern Ireland do not support the NI national football team, and instead support the Republic of Ireland national football team. This is because many Irish-Catholics dislike the creation of Northern Ireland at all, as it is a gerrymandered state designed to give an ulster loyalist voting majority.

    Many Irish-Catholics caught within the new Northern Ireland state endured extreme discrimination at the hands of the ulster protestants (that controlled all aspects of political and economic power).

    Many professional Irish footballers from within NI that were good enough to play for the republic, did so. As the Irish-catholic communities look upon the Rep Ireland national team as representatives of the Irish people, and see the Northern Ireland team as the team that represents the ulster protestant colonists.

    Time's have changed though, and the NI national team has under went a heavy re-branding campaign to try and purge away the bitter taste of bigotry and discrimination that has surrounded it for almost 100 years.

    This fixture will be interesting to say the least. Brexit may have tensions inflated slightly but I believe this match will pass quietly.

  4. Something to point out was that, in the 50s, both federations overlapped their cappings, so that a player was called up by both. FIFA had to interfere and state that players could only choose one federation to play for.

  5. Let's not forget to mention how David Meyler and Shane Duffy (Ireland) and Johnny Evans and Steven Davies (NI) both came together to visit the Children's Hospital in Dublin yesterday. They made the childrens day, most importantly. But it also shows how progressive things are going between our country and NI. The game will probably be boring, but that's not what matters, we must respect one another and set aside our differences. Come on you boys in green. ☘

  6. great video although your pronunciation of Glenavon could do with some work, we would call it Glen-av-on (av like have without the H), but as I said very informative, I personally didn't know that was the reason there was so much tension.

  7. I work in a pub in Northern Ireland and there is a story that goes round that there was a player in the 50s maybe 60s played a game for the republic and then was driven up to Belfast to play for Northern Ireland or maybe the other way around? Has anyone else heard this or is it just a load of bollocks?

  8. Man, this video makes me so sad that my country is divided. And when it ruins the sport as well, that's just heartbreaking.

  9. Can we highlight the hilarity of trying to explain that Northern Ireland, in the UK managed by Michael O'Neill and run by the Irish football association is totally separate from the ROI managed by Martin O'Neill and run by the Football association of Ireland.

  10. Brilliant.
    Your coverage of NI football really helps explain how deep rooted the division was/is in the society and how the stain of sectarianism dictated every part of life for ordinary people on both sides, in every part of life.
    Hopefully it helps explain just what the peace process was/Is up against.

    Two things,
    1. bear in mind Irish Catholics following soccer were already up aggainst huge pressure from the Catholic Church, irish political system & GAA (indigenous Irish sport asciation) for playing garrision games & then they had to face external sectarianism.
    Really caught in the middle just to pursue the love of the game.

    2. The fact that virtually all NI Catholic players opt to play for the Republic, it aids in the fact that the NI team is not the cross community unifyer it could be, such as the All-Ireland rugby team.

  11. Both Grass Hockey and Rugby have an All Ireland team, Football NO. Why? Because it mostly the so-called working class who play football so tribalism is more prevalent. Why? I would prefer not to answer.

  12. Great video, showing your usual depth and class. On a positive note, after the '93 game it was reported that the N. Ireland captain Alan McDonald came into the Republic's dressing room and told them to go the USA and represent the whole Island. McDonald was from a Protestant/Unionist background but it shows that at least among players sport is bigger than sectarian politics. You can see the same positivity nowadays when both teams are away, there was a great camaraderie at the euros in 2016. I think a lot of people, myself included, hope that one day we'll have an all-island team, same as in Rugby, but either way it's great to see how far things have come.

  13. And that is the legacy of Britain’s sectarian past. A hateful, apartheid state with supremacist British xenophobia. (They like to dress in KKK Costumes as well)

    Thank god, it will be subsumed into Ireland soon and most of these loyalist thugs will probably move to Britain.

    Then we will have peace. And the last bit of Ireland will be transferred from UK to Ireland.

  14. JINX! An exciting affair!!! It was awful and too much booing from the Irish fans! We never did that before, even against the English. We've have lost it now and can never hold the high ground again. I thought we had grown up! And as for the Northern Ireland fans….well done McClean you ignored them. The Irish football was awful and a large part of both sets of fans were awful. A night to forget……..and yeah I fully understand why the knuckle draggers among us felt to the need to boo and be pathetic, but the rest of us grown ups looked on feeling let down. We still have a long way to go!

    Brilliant video by the way and very well made!

  15. Interesting especially as Irish football has both Teams run by the same rugby football federation I think as what runs the joint Irish country rugby team. So Irish rugby despite their huge fan and religious political divisions as recently shown on a BT Sport TV documentary, were able to play as one United team though using both national anthems but yet football they can't ? 😉

  16. "2018's fixture is likely to be an exciting affair" A scoreless draw! Let me know when Ireland can string more than 2 passes together in the opponent's half of the pitch and then I might start watching them again.

  17. imagine this , the 6 county's put a team together from half there population that works out about 900,000 and they played Ireland off the pitch ,yeas can have your Martin o Neill back he's as usefull as a chocolate tea pot .

  18. My family are catholic’s from the north. I’ll never forgive the republic for the atrocities committed by the IRA against the Protestant civilians. Fuck the republic. Dirty bastards

  19. it certainly was not an exciting affair, northern ireland although limited in terms of talent (much like the republic) were much the better side and really should of won, if they had been more clinical, this irish team is truly awful. anyways it shows in a way how far we've come that the game can be played as a non-event….there'll always be a few idiots, but thats just life

  20. And it was a very VERY boring affair…..neither team will ever win anything, but look at our rugby team, could Dublin and Belfast come together again under like, an AFI (Association Football Ireland) or some shit like that so everyone is happy and have some god awful song like 'Ireland's Call' instead of Ireland national anthem or NI's song. Then, we might be able to beat teams like Georgia and Norway on a regular basis and maybe even play good football. They're basically the same thing, Michael O'Neill managed Dundalk FC, Martin O'Neill has 60 odd caps for NI, nearly the same ranking, same colours….unreal

  21. I'm a Belfast native and I never felt any affinity for the six county team.  While the six county team has always had a small number of Catholic players its fan base has always been100 percent loyalist and Protestant.  The national team, however, has a fan base that is completely non sectarian, and it draws players from all over Ireland and the UK.  The Irish team has supporters all the world.  This is in stark contrast to the six county team who's supporters come mainly from working class loyalist areas in eastern Ulster are basically unknown outside of Europe.

  22. Time for a unify all ireland soccer team. League and international team. No more two leagues and teams and two fat cat blood suckin leechin football asscoations.

  23. The Irish rugby team play as one team and are ranked 2nd in the world. The football team should be the same and would be a lot stronger playing as one, nowhere near 2nd in the world but a lot stronger

  24. you say its a pisstake that its divided, i say its good because at least they dont need to suffer thanks to delaney

  25. Don’t know how you didn’t mention Dundalk vs Linfield in European qualifiers in 1979. It got so bad in oriel park in the 1st leg that the 2nd leg was played in Holland. You could make a video about just this match.

  26. British and Irish so much Blood spilled 😪yet jerry and his cronies want rid of my tricolour wtf absolutely disgraceful 🇮🇪

  27. Simon Harris said it was idiotic that we bood God save the queen, England treated us like animals for 800 years , and it's not even northern Irelands anthem
    I fucking hate him for that

  28. My da is from Westmeath but he and his friends snuck into the 1993 game but one of my da’s friends was drunk and sang ooh ah up the rah! He still has a scar on his arm

  29. Imagine what we could do together like the rugby team! I’m from Down n.ireland but I support the republic coz I’m catholic and consider my self Irish.We would do half decent in all comps just like rugby!

  30. Many of us want one national island team like rugby cricket ect but sadly soccer or football has a different type of following and the unionists hard hateful attitude approach will never allow us to play together like George Best wished.

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