seamus dubhghaill

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


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Founding of the Irish Football Association

irish-football-association-crestThe Irish Football Association (IFA), the governing body for association football in Northern Ireland, is founded on November 18, 1880. It organises the Ireland national football team from 1880 to 1950, which after 1954, becomes the Northern Ireland national football team.

The IFA is founded by seven football clubs mostly in the Belfast area, as the organising body for the sport across all of Ireland. A meeting is called by Cliftonville F.C. of other football clubs that follow the rules set out by the Scottish Football Association (SFA). At that meeting at Queens Hotel, Belfast, the seven clubs form the IFA, making it the fourth oldest national football association in the world, after those of England, Scotland and Wales. The founding members are Alexander F.C., Avoniel F.C., Cliftonville F.C., Lisburn Distillery F.C., Knock F.C., Moyola Park F.C. and Oldpark F.C..

The IFA’s first decisions are to elect its first President, Major Spencer Chichester, and to form an annual challenge cup competition similar to the FA Cup and Scottish Cup competitions, called the Irish Cup. Two years later, Ireland plays its first international against England, losing 13–0, which remains a record for both teams, a record win for England and a record loss for Ireland.

Shortly after the partition of Ireland in 1921, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) is established as a rival association to regulate the game in what is to become the Irish Free State. The immediate cause of the split lay in a bitter dispute over the venue for the replay of an Irish Cup match in 1921 involving Glentoran F.C. of Belfast and Shelbourne F.C. of Dublin. When the first cup match is drawn in Belfast, because of the Irish War of Independence, the IFA reneges on a promise to play the replay in Dublin and schedules the rematch again for Belfast. Shelbourne refuses to comply and forfeits the Cup.

Such is the anger over the issue that the Leinster Football Association breaks away from the IFA and forms its own national association. Those behind the FAI believe that football should be regulated by a federation based in the Irish Free State’s capital, Dublin. They also accuse the IFA of neglecting the development of the game in the South. The IFA’s supporters argue that the federation should be based where the game is primarily played – namely Ulster, and its principal city Belfast.

Both associations claim to represent the whole of the island, each competing internationally under the name “Ireland” and selecting players from both the rival national leagues, which also split at this time. Interventions by FIFA give the FAI de jure organising rights over the 26 counties of the Republic, with the IFA restricted to Northern Ireland. From the 1950s onwards, the IFA no longer claims it is the association for the whole of Ireland.

In 1960, the association moves to its present location on Windsor Avenue in south Belfast, in a building once occupied by Thomas Andrews. The IFA continues to regulate the game in Northern Ireland, and all results obtained by the Irish national side and records in the Irish Football League and the cup competition stand as Northern Irish records.


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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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Birth of Footballer Johnny Giles

Michael John “Johnny” Giles, former association footballer and manager, is born in Ormond Square, Dublin, on November 6, 1940. He is best remembered for his time as a midfielder with Leeds United F.C. in the 1960s and 1970s. After retiring from management in 1985, Giles serves as the senior analyst on RTÉ Sport‘s coverage of association football from 1986 until 2016. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) votes Giles as the greatest Irish player of the last 50 years at the UEFA Jubilee Awards in 2004.

After winning an FA Cup winner’s medal under Matt Busby at Manchester United F.C., Giles moves to Leeds in 1963 where he plays in midfield alongside captain Billy Bremner. The duo goes on to form a central midfield partnership which is one of the best in English club football. Their pairing helps yield several major trophies in the most successful era in Leeds’ history. By a strange coincidence, Giles and Bremner both score exactly 115 goals for the club.

In his later years in football, Giles pursues a managerial career which sees him installed as player-manager and manager of, among others, West Bromwich Albion F.C., the Republic of Ireland national football team, Vancouver Whitecaps F.C. and Shamrock Rovers F.C. Despite having an outstanding knowledge of the game, Giles personally never likes being a manager. He becomes disillusioned with aspects of the job, such as suffering at the hands of non-committal boardrooms, and leaves management permanently in 1985. He later declares that he has no regrets about quitting managerial life.

Subsequently, after repeated encouragement from childhood friend Eamon Dunphy, Giles inadvertently enters the world of football punditry in 1986. He goes on to establish himself as the highly respected senior analyst on RTÉ Sport. In addition, he writes two columns per week for the Irish Evening Herald newspaper, and offers his opinions about the game on radio station, Newstalk 106.

Giles resides in the Harborne area of the city of Birmingham, England. To coincide with his 70th birthday, Giles compiles a first ever autobiography chronicling his life in and outside of football which is released in November 2010. The autobiography, titled A Football Man, becomes the best selling book in the Republic of Ireland.


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Oscar Traynor Leads Anti-Treaty IRA Occupation of O’Connell Street

On June 29, 1922 during the Irish Civil War, Oscar Traynor leads Anti-Treaty members of the Irish Republican Army‘s (IRA) 1st Dublin Brigade to occupy O’Connell Street in order to help the Four Courts garrison. His men also take up positions in York Street, South Circular Road, Capel Street, Parnell Square, and Dolphin’s Barn.

Traynor is an Irish politician and republican born into a strongly nationalist family in Dublin on March 21, 1886. He serves in a number of cabinet positions, most notably as the country’s longest-serving Minister for Defence. He is educated by the Christian Brothers in Dublin. In 1899 he is apprenticed to John Long, a famous wood-carver. As a young man he is a noted footballer and tours Europe as a goalkeeper with Belfast Celtic F.C. whom he plays with from 1910 to 1912.

Traynor joins the Irish Volunteers and takes part in the Easter Rising in 1916, following which he is interned in Wales. During the Irish War of Independence he is brigadier of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Republican Army. He leads the attack on The Custom House in 1921 and an ambush on the West Kent Regiment at Claude Road, Drumcondra on June 16, 1921 when the Thompson submachine gun is fired for the first time in action. When the Irish Civil War breaks out in June 1922, Traynor takes the republican side.

The Dublin Brigade is split however, with many of its members following Michael Collins in taking the pro-Treaty side. On June 29, 1922, Traynor and his supporters occupy O’Connell Street in an attempt to help the republicans who have occupied the Four Courts but are under attack by Free State forces. Traynor and his men hold out for a week of street fighting before making their escape. He organises guerilla activity in south Dublin and County Wicklow, before being captured by Free State troops in September. He is then imprisoned for the remainder of the war.

On March 11, 1925 Traynor is elected to Dáil Éireann in a by-election as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin North constituency, though he does not take his seat due to the abstentionist policy of Sinn Féin. He is re-elected as one of eight members for Dublin North in the June 1927 general election but just one of six Sinn Féin TDs. Once again he does not take his seat. He does not contest the second general election called that year but declares his support for Fianna Fáil. He stands again in the 1932 general election and is elected as a Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin North.

In 1936 Traynor is first appointed to the Cabinet as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. In September 1939 he is appointed Minister for Defence and holds the portfolio until February 1948. In 1948 he becomes President of the Football Association of Ireland, a position he holds until his death. He serves as Minister for Defence in several Fianna Fáil governments and as Minister for Justice, where he is undermined by his junior minister, and later Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, before he retires in 1961.

Oscar Traynor dies on December 15, 1963, in Dublin at the age of seventy-seven. He has a road named in his memory on the Coolock to Santry stretch in North Dublin.

(Pictured: Oscar Traynor in Dublin in July 1922)


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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.