The Football Association in England was founded in 1866; however, it was not until 1880 that the Irish Football Association (IFA) was founded in Belfast. At this time Ireland was one island under British rule. Therefore, there was no Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland teams - only 'Ireland'. During this early period many international matches were played by the Irish team. The home games were mainly played in Belfast but occasionally there were matches played outside of the North; the first international match to be played in Dublin was on March 17th 1900 against England. England won the game 2-0.
In June 1921 the Football Association of the Irish Free State was formed, splitting from the Irish Football Association in Belfast - this was shortly after the Irish Republic had gained its political independence from Britain. This split from the Irish Football Association (based in Belfast) caused significant tensions between the Irish Free State (later to be renamed the Republic of Ireland in 1954) and the other British home nations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) - these tensions were so strong that matches between the home nations and the Irish Free State were extremely sparce for many years.
However, relations between these 'home' nations and FIFA were not particularly strong - mainly because FIFA claimed to have a greater level of authority over them - ie the world's governing body, threatening the power that the English FA, in particular, had hitherto enjoyed - but also because FIFA was based outside of Britain, in Switzerland. The Irish Free State used this situation to their advantage by joining FIFA in 1923. Whilst Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland refused to play the Irish Free State because of their decision to split from the Irish Football Association, the Irish Free State were able to play international matches through their membership of FIFA rendering the boycott imposed by the British home nations largely redundant. In 1924 the Irish Free State entered a football team into the Paris Olympics. This was the first time that an Irish football team had played under the new green white and orange national flag.
Despite the massive rift between the two football associations in Ireland, both selected players from the opposing side right up until 1950. Indeed, the last 'All Ireland' team played against Wales in March 1950 when four 'Southern' players represented Northern Ireland. From this period onwards, things became a lot clearer - Northern Ireland were represented by the Irish Football Association based in Belfast, whilst the Republic of Ireland were represented by the Football Association of Ireland based in Dublin. This is how things have remained to this present day.
This section is the most complete collection of Irish footballing photographs on the net. With over 220 photos, the development of the Irish national side is shown in detail and depth. These photographs that are contained in this section are of the Irish Free State / Republic of Ireland only. They have been divided into different sections according to the date they originate from. These are: Pre 1945; 1945 to 1970; 1970 to 1990; and 1990 to the Present Day. Please click on the links below for each section.