IFA sharply dismisses all-Ireland charity football idea

First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh
First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pictured with Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh

An all-Ireland charity football team will not happen, the IFA said in a terse statement last night after Taoiseach Enda Kenny suggested that such a team could take on England every two years to raise money for children.

The games could be played at Wembley in London or stadiums in Dublin or Belfast and could help fund research and developments at specialist hospitals in Belfast and Dublin, the Taoiseach proposed.

The Taoiseach’s proposal during a meeting in Armagh received support from political leaders north and south of the border.

But despite initial support from DUP leader Peter Robinson, last night the IFA made its position abundantly clear.

A short statement from Windsor Avenue said: “Following comments made by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Sport and Reconciliation conference in Armagh today regarding a proposed ‘all-island football team for charity’, the Irish FA wishes to clarify that the idea is not, and will not be on the Association’s radar.”

Mr Kenny had earlier said: “We could take on the might of England entirely for charity, for the children’s hospitals (of Belfast and Dublin), for the children of the island, for research and development of what can impact on their little lives.”

In 1973 an all-Ireland team billed as Shamrock Rovers XI played Brazil at Dublin’s Lansdowne Road stadium.

The team included incoming Republic of Ireland football manager Martin O’Neill as well as Pat Jennings and Johnny Giles. Brazil won 4-3 in a match played at the height of the Troubles, intended as a gesture of friendship.

Forty years later Mr Kenny yesterday attended a conference bringing together rugby, soccer and Gaelic games.

He said a soccer game against England could be held at Belfast’s Windsor Park or Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.

The Taoiseach earlier mooted Croke Park, the Dublin home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, as a possible venue.

Later, at a meeting of Stormont and Dublin ministers, First Minister Peter Robinson said the idea was a matter for the governing bodies of soccer to explore: “As long as I am not the referee I don’t mind being there.

“It doesn’t threaten the autonomy or authority of either organisation for a charity match to be held for what would be a very good cause for young children in terms of hospitals both in Northern Ireland and in the south.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he would like to see a football team representing all the people of Ireland.