Republic of Ireland Profile

Year Founded 1924

The Republic of Ireland national football team represents most of Ireland on the international stage.

Although the team began life as a unified Irish side, since 1953, they have competed as a nation distinct from Northern Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland draws most of its players from the top English and Scottish leagues with their domestic league comparatively weak. Their best youth players tend to cross the Irish Sea early.

They have traditionally turned out in a home kit made up of a green shirt, white shorts and green socks with the colour scheme reversed for their away kit.

The Republic of Ireland's best performance on the international stage came in the 1990 World Cup in Italy where they made the quarter-finals before losing to the hosts.

At the 2016 European Championships, the Republic made the knockout stages for the first time.

English World Cup-winner Jack Charlton is considered to be the Republic of Ireland's most influential manager, guiding the team to three major championships during his 10-year spell in charge between 1986 and 1996.

The team's designated home ground is the Aviva Stadium in Dublin which they share with the Irish rugby team.

Early history

A Republic of Ireland team of the 1950s

Ireland was represented by a single national team between 1882 and 1924 under the Belfast-based Irish Football Association (IFA).

The history of football in the country is intrinsically linked to political control of the island and the partition of Ireland into the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland in 1920 would begin the process of separating the football teams and lead to the establishment of the Football Association of the Irish Free State (FAIFS) which split from the IFA in 1921.

Two years later the FAIFS was recognised by FIFA, and they made their international debut at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris as Ireland sent a national delegation to the games for the first time. The Irish team gave a good account of themselves, beating Bulgaria 1-0 courtesy of a Paddy Duncan goal in the preliminary round before forcing the Netherlands to extra time in the quarter-finals.

The Irish Free State played their first home game in June 1924 facing a USA team who had embarked on a short European tour following the Olympics.

Between 1936 and 1953 the Irish Free State team reverted to designating their team as Ireland and claimed jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland as did the rival Northern Ireland-based IFA. The two associations even selected the same players - with at least 38 players turning out for both sides.

Four players represented both Irish teams during the 1950 World Cup qualification tournament, and at the behest of the FAI, FIFA stepped in. The global football body would eventually recognise the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as distinct teams in 1953, four years after the establishment of a Republic in the South of Ireland.

A Republic of Ireland match against England in 1957

In 1965 the Republic of Ireland selected the first national team player born outside of Ireland in Manchester United's Shay Brennan. The decision would open the door for players with Irish parents to represent the Republic and allowed future stalwarts Mark Lawrenson, David O'Leary, John Aldridge, Tony Cascarino, Ray Houghton and David Kelly to turn out for the team. Eligibility rules were later relaxed to allow players with at least one Irish grandparent to play for the team. Players born in Northern Ireland had always been and continue to be eligible to play for the Republic and vice versa.

They appointed their first full-time manager in 1969 with Mick Meagan taking up the role, but achieving little success.

The Republic of Ireland narrowly missed out on qualification for the 1978 and 1982 World Cups under the leadership of Johnny Giles and Eoin Hand respectively and had to watch Northern Ireland reach international football's biggest stage in 1982 and 1986.

In 1986, the FAI appointed Charlton as the first, and to date only, Englishman to manage the Republic of Ireland. He would modernise the Irish game and usher in a golden generation.

Republic of Ireland and the 1988 European Championships

In 1988 Charlton led the Republic of Ireland to a major championship for the first time since the team was recognised by FIFA in 1953.

Charlton's side needed some help from Scotland to qualify, going through to the tournament proper in West Germany by virtue of the Scots 1-0 win over Bulgaria in Sofia.

Ireland were drawn alongside England, the USSR and Netherlands in a very tough group.

They opened their tournament against England and with the team given little hope, they set out to avoid embarrassment. To the surprise of the Irish players, their supporters outnumbered the English, creating an incredible atmosphere inside the stadium in Stuttgart on a sweltering summer's day.

Those supporters would be sent into delirium early on as a speculative ball into the England box from Tony Galvin wasn't dealt with by the defence and John Aldridge headed square to Ray Houghton who sent it looping into Peter Shilton's net. With 84 minutes still on the clock, Ireland withstood an English onslaught. By the end of the match, the Irish were so exhausted they couldn't really take in what they had achieved.

After a draw against the Soviet Union, Ireland only needed a draw against the Netherlands to secure a semi-final spot and came within nine minutes of getting that point, before Wim Kieft's freak winner sent the Dutch through.

The performance at the 1988 Euros nonetheless sparked belief among Irish players and supporters that they could compete on the international stage.

Ireland would miss out on the next five European Championships but would distinguish themselves with performances at the World Cup.

Back-to-back World Cups

Republic of Ireland line up before a match at the 1994 World Cup

Under Charlton's guidance, the Republic of Ireland qualified for the World Cup for the first time since the establishment of the Republic, heading to Italia '90 invigorated by their efforts in West Germany two years earlier.

Ireland were drawn in a tough group, yet again finding themselves facing both England and the Netherlands.

England faced Ireland in their opening match with Gary Lineker making amends for his illness-affected performance in 1988 by giving the Three Lions the lead. Kevin Sheedy produced a sublime equaliser though to deny England a reverse of their shock Euro defeat.

Ireland couldn't find a way past Egypt and were forced to share the points with the North African nation, that result left Charlton's side needing just a draw against the Netherlands to progress provided England could beat Egypt.

The Republic of Ireland were carved open by Ruud Gullit in a slick Dutch move in just the 11th minute, but they showed resilience to stay in the contest until Niall Quinn was able to poach an equaliser. Ireland earned second place in the group by virtue of lost/drawn and would face Romania in the last 16.

Ireland won a dramatic penalty shootout against an excellent Romanian team to reach the quarter-finals, where they would face hosts Italy - which proved a bridge too far as a Salvatore Schillaci goal in the 38th minute sent Ireland out of the competition.

Four years on, Ireland qualified for the World Cup again, bringing a throng of supporters to the United States.

Ireland avenged their Italia '90 defeat thanks to a Ray Houghton goal in the 11th minute of their opening clash of the 1994 World Cup against Italy in front of more than 75,000 people at Giants Stadium.

A brace from Mexico's Luis Garcia Postigo handed Ireland their first World Cup group stage defeat, despite a late consolation goal from Aldridge.

A goalless draw between Ireland and Norway and a 1-1 stalemate between Mexico and Italy left all four teams on four points, sending Charlton's side through in second place.

Ireland were beaten 2-0 by the Netherlands in the last 16 to bow out of the tournament having again given a good account of themselves.

They would miss out on France 1998 after losing a two-legged play-off to Belgium.

The 2002 World Cup and return to the Euros

Ireland returned to the World Cup in 2002, but their appearance was overshadowed by a public spat between skipper Roy Keane and manager Mick McCarthy, which saw the captain sent home.

Roy Keane is sent home from the 2002 World Cup

They started the tournament with a disappointing draw against Cameroon and were trailing Germany 1-0 at the end of normal time, before Robbie Keane slotted a sensational equaliser to keep Ireland's hopes of reaching the knockouts alive.

Ireland comfortably saw off a Saudi Arabia side that had been hammered 8-0 by Germany in their opening group match. Keane, Gary Breen and Damien Duff got on the scoresheet to help Ireland record their biggest World Cup win.

Ireland finished second in the group to set up a last 16 date with Spain.

Fernando Morientes gave Spain the lead early and Ireland missed a second-half penalty won by Duff. Ian Harte struck the spot-kick too close to Iker Casillas, and Kevin Kilbane couldn't direct his effort on the rebound goalwards. A poor piece of defending from Fernando Hierro gifted Ireland a late penalty, which Keane converted to send the match to extra-time, and penalties followed. Keane converted the first, but Matt Holland, David Connolly and Kilbane couldn't make theirs count, and Ireland's hearts were broken.

It would be 10 years before Ireland appeared at a major championship again, despite having a promising generation of players including Ireland's all-time leading scorer in Robbie Keane.

Ireland missed out on the 2010 World Cup after a controversial play-off loss to France. Thierry Henry infamously handled the ball before squaring to Willam Gallas who scored in extra time to send France through.

They would face a play-off again in the 2012 Euro qualifiers but easily saw off Estonia to end a long wait to qualify for the championships for the first time since 1988.

Ireland endured a disappointing tournament though, suffering defeats to Croatia, Spain and Italy and exiting at the group stage.

In 2013 Northern Irishman Martin O'Neill was appointed manager with Roy Keane brought in to assist him. O'Neill would not deliver World Cup qualification. O'Neill would guide Ireland to the 2016 Euros, though, which were expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

Ireland were handed another tough draw, facing Italy, Belgium and Sweden. Ireland led their opening group match against Sweden courtesy of a Wes Hoolahan strike, but a Ciaran Clark own goal denied them three points in a match where they had created more chances.

Belgium swept Ireland aside 3-0 leaving O'Neill's charges in danger of an early exit.

Ireland needed to beat Italy to stand any chance of progressing but were kept at bay by Antonio Conte's side for much of the contest despite showing terrific hustle. Their break came late on as Hoolahan found marauding full-back Robbie Brady who headed beyond Salvatore Sirigu to book a last 16 berth.

Republic of Ireland team huddle before a Euro 2016 match

Brady gave Ireland an early lead from the spot against France but a quickfire second-half brace from Antoine Griezmann ensured the hosts would progress.

Recent years

Ireland suffered play-off defeats in their next two major qualifying campaigns.

James McClean secured a spot in the play-offs for the 2018 World Cup with a goal against Wales in Cardiff. Ireland drew 0-0 away to Denmark in the first leg of that play-off and took the lead at home courtesy of Shane Duffy's header, but went on to lose 5-1 as they were picked apart by Christian Eriksen.

Ireland were poor in their inaugural UEFA Nations League campaign and O'Neill and Keane were sacked as a result.

Mick McCarthy returned for his second spell as coach, and despite a slow start they looked set to qualify for the 2020 Euros, topping their qualifying group with three games to go, but a draw away to Georgia was followed by defeat to Switzerland and a draw against Denmark.

McCarthy resigned his post after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic leaving Stephen Kenny to direct the Republic of Ireland's efforts in a four-team play-off path tournament.

Ireland lost their play-off semi-final to Slovakia on penalties, missing out on a final against Northern Ireland and the 2020 Euros, which were postponed until 2021.

Legends of the Republic of Ireland

A mural of legendary Republic of Ireland manager, Jack Charlton

The Republic of Ireland has strong links to clubs in England's North West and their biggest stars have played for Liverpool or Manchester United.

The likes of Ronnie Whelan and John Aldridge were part of dominant Liverpool sides in the 1980s, while cult hero Packie Bonner spent his whole career at Celtic.

Jason McAteer was perhaps better known for his exploits on Merseyside than with the Republic of Ireland, but his oft midfield rival, Manchester United's Roy Keane is the most decorated Irishman on top of being a former skipper and assistant coach.

Former Leeds, Spurs and Liverpool striker Robbie Keane is Ireland's leading goalscorer by some distance - having scored three times more goals than his closest rival. Keane is also the Republic's most capped player, just ahead of longtime goalkeeper Shay Given, whose international career spanned two decades.

Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland

Biggest rivals

The Republic of Ireland's biggest rivalries run deeper than simple sporting grudges as for decades there was genuine enmity between the Southerners and the Ulstermen to the North and perhaps even more ill will towards England.

Northern Ireland played their first match against the Republic during the qualifying campaign for the 1980 European Championship with the match ending in a goalless draw.

In 1995 a match between Ireland and England at Lansdowne Road was abandoned after just 27 minutes, with English hooligans blamed for inciting a riot in the stands. It would be 20 years before England played a fixture in Dublin.

Fanbase

Ireland established themselves as one of the neutrals' favourite teams with their performances in the 1988 Euros, and the 1990 and 1994 World Cups.

The team was not that well supported prior to the 1988 Euros, with coach Charlton reportedly taking the squad out for drinks ahead of the trip to West Germany without drawing much attention at all.

Ireland's supporters flocked to Germany in their droves though and brought a party atmosphere with them. By contrast to English football fans of the 1980s, Ireland's supporters were well-behaved, and host nations welcomed them with open arms.

During the 2016 Euros, Irish fans made headlines for cheerfully helping an elderly couple change a flat tyre.

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