A Guide To Football In Ireland

Football is one of the most popular sports in Ireland, with a rich history and passionate fan base. The game is deeply ingrained in Irish culture, with many communities and counties taking great pride in their local teams.

For those looking to explore the world of Irish football, there are a variety of resources available to help navigate the sport. From stadium guides to team overviews, there is a wealth of information out there to help fans get the most out of their experience.

Whether you are a seasoned supporter or a newcomer to the sport, this guide will provide an overview of football in Ireland, including its history, key players and teams, and tips for getting the most out of your experience.

History of Football in Ireland

Early Years

Football has been played in Ireland since the 1860s, but it was mainly confined to Ulster. It was not until the 1880s that football began to spread to other parts of the country. In 1880, clubs in the Belfast area came together to form the Irish Football Association (IFA), which became the organizing body for football across all of Ireland. However, the IFA was primarily concerned with football in Ulster and did not take much interest in the rest of the country.

The Formation of the FAI

In 1921, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) was formed as a result of a split from the IFA. The main reason for the split was that the IFA was seen as being biased towards Ulster clubs and players. The FAI was established to promote football in the rest of Ireland and to give players from all parts of the country an equal opportunity to play for the national team.

The early years of the FAI were difficult as it struggled to establish itself and gain recognition from international football bodies. However, the FAI persevered and eventually gained recognition from FIFA in 1923. The first official international match played by the FAI was against Italy in 1926.

Despite the difficulties, the FAI continued to promote football across Ireland and established a number of regional leagues and competitions. The FAI also oversaw the development of the national team, which has had some notable successes over the years, including reaching the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup.

Football Leagues in Ireland

Ireland has a rich footballing tradition, and the country boasts several football leagues. The two main leagues are the League of Ireland and the Irish Football League.

League of Ireland

The League of Ireland is the top-level league in Ireland. It was founded in 1921 and consists of two divisions: the Premier Division and the First Division. The Premier Division is the top tier, and the First Division is the second tier.

The Premier Division has 10 teams, and the First Division has 8 teams. The league operates on a promotion and relegation system, with the bottom team in the Premier Division being relegated to the First Division, and the top team in the First Division being promoted to the Premier Division.

The League of Ireland season typically runs from February to October, with each team playing 36 games. The league also has a cup competition, the FAI Cup, which is open to all teams in Ireland, including non-league teams.

Irish Football League

The Irish Football League is the second-level league in Ireland. It was founded in 1890 and consists of two divisions: the Premiership and the Championship. The Premiership is the top tier, and the Championship is the second tier.

The Premiership has 12 teams, and the Championship has 11 teams. The league operates on a promotion and relegation system, with the bottom team in the Premiership being relegated to the Championship, and the top team in the Championship being promoted to the Premiership.

The Irish Football League season typically runs from August to May, with each team playing 38 games. The league also has a cup competition, the Irish Cup, which is open to all teams in Northern Ireland, including non-league teams.

National Football Team

History of the Irish National Team

The Republic of Ireland national football team represents the Republic of Ireland in men’s international football. The team made their debut at the 1924 Summer Olympics, reaching the quarter-finals. Since then, they have participated in numerous international competitions, including the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA European Championship.

The team has a long and storied history, with many memorable moments and achievements. One of the most significant moments in the team’s history was when they qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. Led by legendary manager Jack Charlton, the team made it to the quarter-finals, where they were narrowly defeated by the host nation.

Current Team and Players

The current Republic of Ireland national football team is made up of a talented group of players, many of whom play for top clubs in Europe. The team is currently managed by Stephen Kenny, who took over from Mick McCarthy in 2020.

Some of the current stars of the team include Seamus Coleman, who plays for Everton in the English Premier League, and Shane Duffy, who plays for Celtic in the Scottish Premiership. Other notable players include James McClean, Jeff Hendrick, and Darren Randolph.

The team has had some recent struggles in international competition, failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the 2020 UEFA European Championship. However, with a talented group of players and a new manager at the helm, the team will be looking to bounce back and achieve success in the future.

Football Stadiums in Ireland

Ireland has a rich football culture, and the country boasts several stadiums that are worth visiting. Below are two of the most notable stadiums in Ireland:

Aviva Stadium

The Aviva Stadium, located in Dublin, is the home of the Irish national football and rugby teams. The stadium has a seating capacity of 51,700, and it is known for its modern design and state-of-the-art facilities. The stadium was opened in 2010, and it has since hosted several high-profile football matches, including UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches.

Visitors to the Aviva Stadium can take a guided tour of the facility, which includes a visit to the changing rooms, players’ tunnel, and pitchside.

Tallaght Stadium

Tallaght Stadium, located in South Dublin, is the home of Shamrock Rovers FC, one of the most successful football clubs in Ireland. The stadium has a seating capacity of 8,000 and is known for its lively atmosphere and passionate fans. The stadium was opened in 2009, and it has since become a popular destination for football fans.

Visitors to Tallaght Stadium can take a guided tour of the facility, which includes a visit to the changing rooms, press room, and pitchside. The stadium also has a museum dedicated to the history of Shamrock Rovers FC.

Other notable football stadiums in Ireland include:

  • Croke Park
  • Turner’s Cross
  • Oriel Park
  • Brandywell Stadium

Each stadium has its own unique history and character, making them all worth a visit for football fans.

Football Culture in Ireland

Supporters and Rivalries

Football in Ireland is not just a sport, it is a way of life. The fans are passionate and dedicated, creating a unique and vibrant football culture. The biggest rivalry in Irish football is between Dublin and Kerry, with both teams having a long-standing history of success. Other notable rivalries include Cork and Tipperary, and Mayo and Galway. The supporters of Irish football are known for their colourful and boisterous displays of support. They often come together in large groups, singing and chanting to create a lively and energetic atmosphere. The most famous group of supporters is the Green Army, who follow the Irish national team wherever they go.

Football in Irish Society

Football has a special place in Irish society, with the sport playing an important role in the country’s history and culture. The game is deeply rooted in Irish tradition, with Gaelic football being the most popular sport in the country. The sport is played at a grassroots level in every town and village across the country, with local clubs forming the backbone of the sport.

The Irish national team is also a source of great pride for the country, with fans coming together to support the team in major international tournaments. The team’s greatest moment came in the 1990 World Cup, when they reached the quarter-finals, capturing the hearts of the nation.

Football has also played a role in breaking down social barriers in Ireland. The sport has brought people from different backgrounds and communities together, creating a sense of unity and camaraderie. This is particularly evident in the success of the Irish national team, which has brought people from all over the country together to support their team.


Football is an integral part of Irish culture and has a rich history in the country. From the formation of the Football Association of Ireland in 1921 to the present day, football has been a source of pride and passion for many Irish people.

The development of football in Ireland has been largely influenced by the introduction of the sport by Belfast merchant John M McAlery in 1878. Since then, the sport has grown in popularity and has become one of the most played sports in the country. The FAI oversees Ireland’s domestic leagues, as well as its national teams, and provides opportunities for players of all ages and abilities to participate in the sport.

Gaelic football, one of the six Gaelic Games, is also an important aspect of Irish culture and is played by many throughout the country. While it differs from traditional football in many ways, it is still a testament to the passion and love for the sport that is shared by so many Irish people.

Overall, football in Ireland is a vibrant and exciting sport that continues to captivate the hearts of many. Whether you are a seasoned player or a newcomer to the sport, there is no doubt that football in Ireland has something to offer everyone.

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