Senator Robbie Gallagher

Debate needed on All Ireland soccer team says Gallagher

While the fraught nerves of Irish soccer fans might be jangling ahead of tonight's friendly with Qatar, a local politician is mooting the prospect of an All Ireland team.

Senator Robbie Gallagher is seeking a debate on the future of the Republic and Northern Irish soccer teams in the wake of recent poor results. Senator Gallagher cited the success of other sports which are organised on an all –Ireland basis.

Speaking in the Seanad he said, "Along with many other people in the country, I watched as our international soccer team went down 1-0 to Luxembourg at the weekend. It was a hugely disappointing result.

"I looked across the Border and our friends in the Northern Ireland soccer team are on a similar run where they cannot seem to buy a win either. It raises the question many people are asking me that perhaps now is the time for us to have a debate in this country about having an all-island soccer team just like we have in rugby and hockey. The reality is that for two small nations, such as Northern Ireland and the Republic, to have two soccer teams on one island and expect them to compete at international level is simply not on anymore.

"We have seen what we can do when our nation unites. We have seen how our rugby team can compete with the very best in the world. Our rugby team beat England less than a week ago - the same English team that went on to compete in a World Cup final not so long ago.”

Senator Gallagher suggested that there be a debate in this country and that perhaps the members of the Seanad would kick-start that debate by having the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Deputy Jack Chambers, come into the chamber to see how the conversation could be initiated.

“Northern Ireland, and indeed the Republic, have had some good days in the past. Here, in the Republic, we had an opportunity to watch a programme on Virgin Media One about dementia and the great late Jack Charlton who, like many others, suffered from that disease. We saw the scenes of the glory days when we had success in this country - indeed, Northern Ireland have had their day in the sun too - but not as often as we would like. It is time we had that debate. I would like us in this Chamber to kick that off by asking the Minister of State with responsibility for sport to come in to have a debate on that subject,” he concluded.