Why are there two football teams for Northern Ireland and Ireland? (Explained!)

Last Updated on May 15, 2022 by

In simple terms, Ireland and Northern Ireland are two different countries and that’s the major reason behind both having separate football teams. The split between the two countries has a political undertone and it is always a touchy subject to discuss. However, both nations still jointly present a team as Ireland in rugby. Ireland is generally known as the Republic of Ireland and operates as a sovereign state while Northern Ireland on the other hand remains a part of the united kingdom alongside England, Scotland, and Wales.

Interestingly, the political tug of war and associations played a crucial role in the split of both nations into a separate units. Have you ever wondered how the split between the two nations came about and how the two countries keep their football moving as a separate entity? Seek no further as all the resources you need will be provided in this article. Let’s proceed!

Why are there two football teams for Ireland as Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?

Why are there two football teams for Ireland as Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

A long-standing rivalry between two soccer associates led to an infamous spit between the two countries in the 1920s. The historic territorial and supremacy battle lasted for several years before both parties eventually decided to part ways and form separate football teams. The Republic of Ireland have the support of over a half population of people living in Northern Ireland due to sectarian issues on both sides. Just as we had it in the United kingdom where different nations have their separate football teams but plays in the Olympics together as a single team, the republic of Ireland and northern Ireland also come together as one team in rugby and crickets. However, the two nations have different football national teams and are govern by separate football associations.

Why is Northern Ireland not part of the Republic of Ireland?

Historically, Northern Ireland has never been a  part of the Republic of Ireland which means there is no previous political entity to return to. In addition to that, northern Ireland chose to opt-out and form its region when the republic of Ireland was formed as the Irish free state. Before the formation of the Republic of Ireland, the two nations were united under British rule and northern Ireland chose to remain a part of the united kingdom.

What is the relationship like between the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland?

Both nations get on quite well and there is no report of any major rancor except few political grumbles anytime the republic of Ireland attempts to interfere in the politics of Northern Ireland. Football clashes between the two nations usually bring fierce rivalry and holiday visits to either side are usually welcomed with open arms. In addition to that, both nations come together as s single team in rugby and cricket which is a testament that there is no major antipathy shared between the two nations as a separate unit.

How good is the republic of Ireland national team in men’s football?

How good is the republic of Ireland national team in men's football

Ireland is a country with a relatively low population and its football league can be categorized as a semi-professional one. However, the country’s football national team has been consistently performing at a higher level for several decades. They have also produced superstars in the England premier league such as Robbie Keane, Liam Brady, and the legendary to mention a few, who have produced top performances against football giants like Brazil, Italy, and England.

Is there any likelihood that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will reunite?

Politically, there is a fair chance of an eventual reunion between the countries. The confusion surrounding the Brexit negotiations has increased the support for an all Irish unification which might come to reality in the coming years. However, this has no direct impact on the sport as the two nations still join heads together as a single team in rugby and cricket. Football is the only sport where they have two different teams but it might likely change if the reunion is eventually actualized.

Have both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland ever faced off in a football match?

Yes! Since the split between the nations back in the 1920s, both nations have faced each other in the FIFA world cup qualifiers, the UEFA European Championships qualifiers, and some high-profile charity and international friendly games. In total, they have faced off on eleven different occasions across the three competitions stated above. the last encounter was an international friendly game played on the 15th of October 2018. For the record, the Republic of Ireland won four (4) out of the eleven(11) while their northern Irish counterparts won Two with the remaining six(6) ending in draws.


Below is a compiled list of frequently asked questions on why there is two national football tea in Ireland as the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Let’s take a look at them!

Why is the Irish football team called the Republic of Ireland?

According to the FIFA directive in 1953, it was decreed that the FAI team must be called the Republic of Ireland while the IFA team would be called the Northern Ireland in any official competition or competitive matches played by the two teams 

Can northern Irish players play for the Republic of Ireland?

Yes! The FAI victory in the court of arbitration for sport over a landmark case allowed all players born to play for the Republic of Ireland team.

What is the biggest sporting activity in Northern Ireland?

The most practiced sport in northern Ireland are cycling, swimming, jogging, and other sporting activities that involve walking for recreation.

Has Ireland ever won a major tournament?

No! Although they have qualified and participated in three European Championships in 1988, 2012, and 2016 and also in the FIFA world cups in 1990, 1994, and 2002 respectively. The furthest they had ever gone in these tournaments was a quarter-final in the Italian ’90 FIFA world cup.

Final words

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are two different countries after an infamous split several decades ago. The Republic of Ireland operates as a sovereign state while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Interestingly, The two nations have separate football teams while they come together as one to form a team in other sports like rugby and cricket.

These resources in this article were put together to answer your queries about why Ireland and northern Ireland have separate football teams. As we come to the end of this informative article, our comment section is opened if you have more questions regarding the article topic.


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