Identity Statement for Football Association of Ireland

  • Reference code: IE UCDA P137
  • Title: Records of the Football Association of Ireland
  • Dates: 1921–86
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 15 boxes of papers, 30 volumes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Institutional History

Early Years

Although football was being played in Ireland since the 1860s, it was mainly based in Ulster and it was not until the 1880s that the game spread to other areas of the country. 

The first club outside Ulster was the Dublin Association Football Club which was formed in 1883. At the time, the Irish Football Association (IFA) was the governing body. Based in Belfast, it found it difficult to promote football throughout the country. This led to the formation of the Leinster Football Association in 1892 as the game became more popular in the area.

However, there was always a feeling among clubs from outside the Belfast area that the IFA favoured Ulster based clubs-especially when selecting sides for international matches. Despite this, it was not until after the 1916 Rising and the rise of Nationalism that southern affiliates, such as the Leinster FA, took an aggressive approach in their dealings with the IFA. The clubs often threatened to break away, and in early 1921, Bohemians, St James's Gate and Shelbourne all withdrew from the Irish League, though all three sides decided to remain involved in Cup competitions.

The matter reached crisis-point when later that year, the IFA reneged on a promise to play the IFA Cup final replay between Shelbourne and Glenavon in Dublin and scheduled the match for Belfast. Shelbourne refused to comply and forfeited the Cup. A meeting of southern associations and clubs was arranged and on June 1 1921, the Football Association of the Irish Free State (FAIFS) was formed in Molesworth Hall in Dublin.

A Free State League was hastily organised, with eight teams taking part. Originally all eight teams were from Dublin, but Athlone became the first provincial club to join the league the following season. St James's Gate won the first title, and they were also winners of the first FAI Cup, then called the Free State Cup, in 1922. The FAIFS had greater difficulty in arranging international fixtures.

All the home nations' associations had blacklisted the FAIFS, but the Association had better fortune in their dealings with FIFA. France's relations with Britain were poor at the time, and they defied the home nations wishes and sent Athletic Club of Gallia to Ireland in 1923 to play challenge matches against Bohemians and Pioneers. In August of that year, FIFA accepted Ireland's application for membership and the FAIFS joined the international community.

However, it was another three years, before Ireland fulfilled its first international fixture. Although a Free State side did compete in the 1924 Paris Olympics, it was under the auspices of the Olympic Council of Ireland. The first fixture organised by the FAIFS was in March 1926 against Italy in Turin. The game ended in a 3–0 defeat, but the first steps had been taken.

At the time, both the FAIFS and IFA selected players from all over Ireland meaning that many footballers won caps for both Associations. It wasn't until 1950 that FIFA intervened. The following April, the Italian Federation sent their 'B' team to Dublin for Ireland's first ever home fixture. 20,000 people were at Lansdowne Road to see Bob Fullam put Ireland in front but Italy ran out 2–1 winners.

The following year, Ireland won their first ever matchagainst Belgium in Liege. Trailing 2–0 at half time, Billy Lacey brought Ireland back into the match before two goals from Jimmy White and a penalty from Jack Sullivan earned the team an historic victory. The return match did not take place until 14 months later, and Ireland ran out 4–0 victors as John Joe Flood bagged a hat trick to earn Ireland their first win on home soil.

Ireland's first World Cup campaign in 1934 was a short-lived event, as a 4–4 draw with Belgium (Paddy Moore became the first player in the world to score four goals in a World Cup match when he netted all four Ireland strikes) at Dalymount Park was followed by a 5–2 demolition by Holland in Amsterdam.

The qualifying campaign for the 1938 World Cup, also lasting two matches, set the trend which Ireland did not break until 1990. After a 3–2 defeat against Norway in Oslo, the Irish side was confident of overturning the deficit at Dalymount Park and booking a place in the World Cup finals. 25,000 people attended the game and Ireland started brilliantly with Jacky Carey putting the ball in the net with his first touch, only for the referee to disallow it for offside.

This did not deflate Ireland, who soon got a legitimate goal through Jimmy Dunne, but Norway replied with three of their own. Ireland continued to push forward and Kevin O'Flanagan and Harry Duggan scored to level the match, but it was Norway who progressed to the World Cup finals. 

The 1930s also saw the erosion of Dublin's dominance in the league. During the 1920s, Bohemians, St James's Gate, Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers had a monopoly over the domestic game, but Dundalk and Sligo Rovers both won championships while Cork and Waterford collected FAI Cups as football spread to the provinces.

The Second World War curtailed international matches between 1939 and 1946, but League football went ahead with Cork United continuing the provincial clubs' dominance by winning four titles between 1940 and 1945. On the international front, England were the first side to visit Ireland after the Second World War. It was the first time England had visited Dublin since the split between the IFA and FAI. The away side won the match at Dalymount Park 1–0, but Ireland got their revenge three years later when they became the first side to defeat England on English soil. Ireland won the Goodison Park encounter 2–0 thanks to goals from Con Martin and Peter Farrell.

Ireland again missed out on World Cup participation in 1950 after losing to Sweden in the qualifiers, but were later asked to compete by FIFA. However, the FAI was forced to decline the invitation because of a lack of time to prepare. 1950 was also the year that the problem of players playing for both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was finally solved, with FIFA directing both Associations to only pick players from within their own boundaries. FIFA were also to clear up another matter in 1953 when they ruled that the FAI's team would be known as the Republic of Ireland with the IFA's side being called Northern Ireland. Up to that point, both Associations referred to their teams as 'Ireland.' 

The late 50s saw the Republic of Ireland miss out on World Cup qualification by the narrowest of margins once more. A last minute goal by England at Dalymount Park was enough to guarantee the English, and not Ireland, a place in the Swedish 1958 World Cup. 

The Republic of Ireland also entered the newly created European Championships and they had the honour of lining up in the first ever match in the competition. However, it was a short-lived experience as they went out in the first qualifying round to Czechoslovakia. 

On the domestic front, the Dublin clubs reasserted their dominance with only Cork capable of challenging Shamrock Rovers, St. Patrick's Athletic, Shelbourne and Drumcondra. 1958 saw a League of Ireland side enter European competition for the first time with Shamrock Rovers, inspired by the legendary Paddy Coad, going out to Manchester United in the first round of the European Cup.

The 1960s started disastrously for the international side as they lost all four of their qualifiers for the 1962 World Cup, including a record 7–1 defeat by Czechoslovakia. But things improved in the European Championship qualifiers, as Ireland beat Iceland and Austria before losing to eventual tournament winners Spain. Spain were again the nemesis in the 1966 World Cup qualifiers. Ireland beat them 1–0 at Dalymount Park before losing 4–1 in Seville.

As aggregate scores were not used at the time, a play-off match was needed. There was some controversy that Paris was chosen as the venue (Paris has a large Spanish population), and a 78th minute goal by striker Ufarte meant Ireland missed out on a World Cup finals place. 

In the 1968 European Championships qualifiers, Spain again proved an insurmountable obstacle for Ireland. However, the improvements convinced the FAI that it was time to appoint a team manager and, in 1969, Mick Meagan became the first manager of the Republic of Ireland international side. Up until then, a team of selectors picked the side. However, this new professionalism didn't have any immediate effect, as Ireland failed to win any of their qualifiers for the 1970 World Cup. 

Domestically, Waterford United became one of the league's most successful clubs as they won three titles during the decade, though Shamrock Rovers were the team of the 60s. The Hoops won six FAI Cups in a row during the 60s, a feat that has never been repeated. 

Ireland finished bottom of their qualification group for the 1972 European Championships, ending Meagan's tenure as manager. Liam Tuohy replaced him, and having gone five years without recording a victory, optimism was not high. His first games in charge were in Brazil as part of the Brazil Independence Cup, and things started brightly with victories over Iran and Ecuador.

However, by the time World Cup qualification came around, the team was struggling and, although they managed to beat France at Dalymount Park, the Soviet Union finished ahead of Ireland in the group. 

At underage level, Ireland had its first success with the youths qualifying for the UEFA Youths Championships in 1972 after the Welsh team refused to travel over to Ireland for a qualifying match. In 1973, Sean Thomas, then Bohemians' manager, managed Ireland for one match, a friendly away game against Norway which resulted in a 1–1 draw.

John Giles became Ireland's first ever player-manager before the 1976 European Championship qualifiers, but the side again failed to qualify from their group after, again, losing out to the Soviet Union. With a string of solid performances behind them, Ireland were confident of a good showing in qualifying for the 1978 World Cup. However, the curse was to strike again, as Ireland failed to qualify after losing controversially in Sofia against Bulgaria. Steve Heighway scored a goal that, had it stood, would have meant Ireland qualified for the World Cup, but it was France who traveled to Argentina instead. 

John Giles' reign as manager ended after the 1980 European qualifiers. During the qualifiers, the Republic of Ireland took on Northern Ireland in an historic first ever meeting between the two sides in a game that finished 0–0 at Dalymount Park. In the return leg the Republic were beaten 1–0, which, along with other mixed results, ensured Ireland would not be going to the finals. Alan Kelly Snr took over as caretaker for one match - against the USA after Giles quit. 

In League football, no team really dominated. The major achievement was Dundalk's progress to the last 16 of the European Cup in 1979 when they eventually went out to Glasgow Celtic. 

Eoin Hand took over as manager of the international side before the qualifiers for the 1982 World Cup, and once again, the Irish missed out by the narrowest of margins. Drawn in a tough group with France, Belgium, Holland and Cyprus, Ireland lost only two of their eight matches and missed out on qualification on goal difference. 

The 1984 European Championship qualifiers didn't go much better, as Ireland lost to both Spain and Holland, though they did record their record victory, an 8-0 win over Malta at Dalymount Park. The 1986 World Cup qualifying campaign was to be Eoin Hand's last in charge, and his side were unfortunate to be drawn against the superbly gifted Denmark, who were one of the world's top sides at the time, and the traditionally strong Soviet Union.

Shamrock Rovers were the undisputed kings of the domestic game throughout the 1980s, winning four league titles in a row (1984, 1985, 1986, 1987) and three consecutive FAI Cups (1985, 1986, 1987). However, the decade was to end badly for Rovers when the club's owners sold their home stadium, the much-loved Glenmalure Park. 

At underage level, there was a hint of the success to come, as Ireland's Youth's progressed to the semifinals of the European Youth Championships in the Soviet Union.

© Football Association of Ireland

Archival History

The initial deposit of Executive Council and other minutes was made in September 1995. The remainder of the material was transferred to UCD Archives in the latter half of 2007 as FAI was preparing to move its headquarters from Merrion Square to Abbotstown.

Scope and Content

Material relating to the establishment and development of the Football Association of Ireland, its application for international recognition, its relationship with the Irish Football Association, and communications with other national associations, 1922–56.

FAI administrative records including Secretary’s correspondence, 1932–73.

Minutes of a wide range of bodies and committees including: Finance Committee, 1921–48; Emergency Committee, Protests and Appeals Committee, and other subsidiary committees, 1921–87; Senior Council, 1922–80; Junior Committee, 1923–75; Rules, Ratification and Referees’ Committee, 1924–29, 1942–74; Consultative Committee, 1924–34; International Affairs Committee, 1936–73; Executive Committee, 1976–88.

Material relating to the management of the senior international team and to team fixtures, 1932–71; and to the management of the Olympic, under-23, youth and amateur teams, 1958–74.

Photographs, 1928–51.

  • Access: Permission to consult the material must be obtained from the FAI. Details of the procedure may be had from UCD Archives. Material less than 25 years old is not available for consultation.
    Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in microform.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue