seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Irish Footballer Billy Behan

billy-behanWilliam “Billy” Behan, Irish footballer who plays as a goalkeeper for Shelbourne F.C., Shamrock Rovers F.C. and Manchester United F.C. during the 1930s, is born on August 8, 1911 in Dublin.

Behan makes his Rovers debut on February 8, 1931 in a 5–1 win over Bray Unknowns F.C. at Glenmalure Park. In his first season, he wins the FAI Cup. He signs with Manchester United in September 1933, along with fellow Irishman David Byrne, becoming the first players from the south of Ireland to play for the club in over a decade.

Behan makes his United debut in a Football League Second Division home game against Bury F.C. on March 3, 1934. The following July, he briefly returns to Shelbourne before again returning to the Rovers. Over the next two seasons, he wins another FAI Cup and a League of Ireland Shield. His last game for the Rovers is on August 23, 1936 in a Shield win over Drumcondra F.C..

After his retirement as a player, Behan becomes a respected referee and is in charge of the 1943 FAI Cup Final. He then manages Drumcondra F.C. in the 1950s where he wins the FAI Cup again.

Behan subsequently becomes United’s chief scout in the Republic of Ireland and is credited with discovering, among others, Johnny Carey, Billy Whelan, Tony Dunne, Don Givens, Kevin Moran and Paul McGrath. He also serves as vice chairman of the Dalkey-based Leinster Senior League team, Dalkey United, and it is through this association that he discovers McGrath.

Behan’s father, William Sr., is one of the founder members of Shamrock Rovers. His brothers John and Paddy also play for the Rovers. His son William junior keeps goal for the Rovers side also for a time. His second cousin is Bob Fullam.

Behan’s grandson, Philip Behan, is the former Head of International Football at the Football Association of Ireland and is now a UEFA and FIFA agent organising friendly international matches and tournaments around the world.

Billy Behan dies on November 12, 1991 at the age of 80.


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Ireland’s First Ever Win in International Soccer

ifa-original-badgeIreland wins its first ever match in international soccer on February 19, 1887, beating Wales 4-1 in Belfast. Prior to 1921 and the partition of the country, all of Ireland is represented by a single side, the Ireland national football team, organised by the Irish Football Association (IFA).

On February 18, 1882, fifteen months after the founding of the Irish FA, Ireland makes its international debut against England, losing 13–0 in a friendly played at Bloomfield in Belfast. This remains the largest ever defeat for the team, and is also England’s largest winning margin.

Ireland competes in the inaugural British Home Championship in 1884 and loses all three games. Ireland finally wins its first game on February 19, 1887, with a 4–1 win over Wales in Belfast. Between their 1882 debut and this game, the Ireland team has a run of 14 defeats and 1 draw, the longest run without a win in the 1800s. Despite the end of the losing streak, heavy defeats continue. In March 1888 they lose 11–0 to Wales and 10–2 to Scotland. Further heavy defeats come in March 1890 when they lose 9–1 to England, in 1899 when they lose 13–2 to England, and in February 1901 when they lose 11–0 to Scotland.

Ireland is partitioned into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland in 1920. Southern Ireland gains independence in 1922 as the Irish Free State, later to become a republic under the name of Ireland. Amid these political upheavals, a rival football association, the Football Association of Ireland, emerges in Dublin in 1921 and organises a separate league and international team. In 1923, at a time when the home nations have withdrawn from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the FAI is recognised by FIFA as the governing body of the Irish Free State on the condition that it changes its name to the Football Association of the Irish Free State. The IFA continues to organise its national team on an all-Ireland basis.

Between 1928 and 1946 the IFA is not affiliated to FIFA and the two Ireland teams co-exist, never competing in the same competition. However, on March 8, 1950, in a 0–0 draw with Wales at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham, North Wales in a World Cup qualifier, the IFA fields a team that includes four players who were born in the Irish Free State. All four players have previously played for the FAI in their qualifiers and as a result have played for two different associations in the same FIFA World Cup tournament.

After complaints from the FAI, FIFA intervenes and restricts players’ eligibility based on the political border. In 1953, FIFA rules that neither team can be referred to as Ireland, decreeing that the FAI team officially be designated as the Republic of Ireland, while the IFA team is to become Northern Ireland.