I believe that, in the coming years, we should explore seriously the idea of an all-island football team.
With our recent success in qualifying for the Euro 2012 tournament, and the FAI expressing interest in co-hosting Euro 2020, what better time to consider having an all-island soccer team than now?
Players from both sides of the border have already proven that they can collaborate and thrive with an all-island rugby team, and I think a unified soccer team would also have considerable advantages. Consider the fact that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have never qualified for the same tournament – the opportunity cost, in this instance, is minimal.
A unified team, drawing from a deeper pool of talent, with the support of the entire island, would enhance our chances to qualify for international tournaments more regularly. You only need to look at the great players who have lined out for Northern Ireland in the past including George Best, Pat Jennings and Danny Blanchflower to see the potential long term benefits of merging teams from both side of the border.
I think we are now at a point where many people on the street don’t see any real barriers to this happening. Obviously, it’s an issue which rests with the two football associations, but I would like to see this issue being given consideration.
I would urge the FAI and IFA to take a lead from the experience of the IRFU and to use it as an example as to how this process can be managed successfully. In the meantime, for the coming weeks, like everybody else, I will be putting on the green jersey and supporting our boys in Poland.