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National associations

Developing football in the Republic of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland have qualified for three of the last seven FIFA World Cup finals, the highlight being a quarter-final appearance in Italy in 1990.

Ireland celebrate a Saoirse Noonan goal in a FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier
Ireland celebrate a Saoirse Noonan goal in a FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier Oisin Keniry


The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) vision is to use football to inspire the nation and connect communities, and to enrich the lives of all through positive football experiences. Core strategic aims are to transform football facilities and infrastructures, drive grassroots football as the heart of the game, nurture football pathways for all, develop the full potential of football for women and girls, frame the future of the domestic League of Ireland and build for international success.

At last count, the FAI oversaw 75 leagues, including 39 that offer women’s and/or girls football. Ireland had 1,186 grassroots clubs, of whom 530 offer football to women and girls, while 190 Football For All clubs operate under the FAI umbrella. Over 80,000 volunteers are engaged in football in the Republic of Ireland, with over 11,000 of them working as coaches.

Developing the full potential of football for women and girls is a core pillar of the FAI’s strategy, and the association is fully committed to increasing participation levels across all levels of the female game, developing and launching new programmes, and building on the recent announcement of equal pay for senior women and men’s international teams.

“As the biggest participation sport in Ireland, we are proud of the impact our game makes in every community across the country and we look forward to driving participation numbers, improving pathways for our players and coaches, increasing the number of volunteers throughout our sport and offering women and girls equal opportunity to enjoy and embrace their love of football as players, coaches, officials and volunteers.”

Jonathan Hill, FAI chief executive

UEFA support

UEFA HatTrick funding is helping the FAI to maintain its programmes to grow football across Ireland, and also to support the workings of the association across international participation, coach development, elite academy structures and player pathways, referee training and UEFA Referee Convention implementation, club licencing across the League of Ireland and grassroots funding.

UEFA has also helped to feed a demand for top-class, full-sized, all-weather pitches and associated clubhouses in Ireland as part of a nationwide drive to improve facilities and increase the accessibility to the game.

UEFA Foundation for Children

Set up in 2015, the UEFA foundation uses football as a vehicle to help improve children's lives by supporting hundreds of campaigns and projects across Europe and around the world.

Youth in Action

The project’s mission is to tackle racism in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and promote community cohesion and the integration of ethnic minority and migrant communities through sports and education.

The programme aims to promote inclusion and friendship and tackle racism by working with young people, ethnic minority representative groups and refugees and asylum seekers housed in local communities. Young people will be given the opportunity to share experiences, cultural values and interests. Education programmes will use football and football culture as a pathway to explore the themes of race and racism.


Association history

1878 John M McAlery, a Belfast merchant, introduces football to Ireland, having discovered it during a trip to Edinburgh in Scotland. 1921 On 1 June, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) is formally founded in Dublin; from 1923, the 'home' countries (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) recognise the new association as the governing body for what was then the ‘Irish Free State’ following pressure from FIFA. 1922 The first domestic league and FAI Cup campaigns conclude with a double triumph for St James's Gate. Shamrock Rovers enter the league the following season and claim the title at the first attempt. 1936 Dubliner Johnny Carey joins Manchester United; he wins the FA Cup (1948) and an English league title (1952), and captains the team under Sir Matt Busby. 1985 Ireland introduces a second tier competition; as of 2022, there are ten teams in the Premier Division and nine in the First Division, both of which now run from spring to autumn. 1999 Cork-born Denis Irwin features for Manchester United in their UEFA Champions League final success against Bayern München; fellow Irishman, captain Roy Keane, misses that final through suspension, but is the dominant figure in one of the great sides of the era, winning seven titles and four FA Cups at Old Trafford. 2007 The FAI moves to its new base, the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown. 2011 Ireland’s national stadium, the Dublin Arena, stages its first major UEFA competition final, Porto beating Braga 1-0 in the all-Portuguese UEFA Europa League final. 2016 Dundalk become the first Irish side to reach the UEFA Champions League play-off round, where they lose to Legia Warszawa; they transfer to the UEFA Europa League and become the first Irish side to feature in a major club competition group stage, with a 1-0 win against Maccabi Tel-Aviv in that campaign the first group stage victory for an Irish team. Present day

National team history

1924 A team representing Ireland competes at the 1924 Olympic football tournament in Paris. 1926 The FAI oversees its first full international, a 3-0 friendly defeat against Italy in Turin in March. 1934 Ireland play their first FIFA World Cup qualifying match in February, drawing 4-4 against Belgium at Dublin's Dalymount Park. 1949 Captain Johnny Carey leads the Republic of Ireland to a 2-0 win against England at Everton's Goodison Park stadium in Liverpool – England's first loss on home soil to a foreign country. 1990 Ireland reach the quarter-finals of the FIFA World Cup under former England international Jack Charlton, losing to hosts Italy by a single goal; 1966 World Cup-winner Charlton then leads the Irish to the finals of the 1988 UEFA European Championship and the last 16 at the 1994 World Cup in the United States. 2002 Mick McCarthy's Ireland are denied a last-eight place at the 2002 World Cup following a penalty shoot-out against Spain. 2012 The Republic reach another showpiece event, veteran Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni guiding them to UEFA EURO 2012. 2016 Martin O'Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane oversee Ireland’s EURO finals campaign in France. On 24 August, Robbie Keane plays his final international, having amassed a record 146 caps and 68 goals for his country. Present day


Paul Cooke

Nationality: Irish
Date of birth: 11 October 1960
Association president since:


Interim general secretary

David Courell

Nationality: Irish
Date of birth: 13 August 1983
Interim CEO since:

David Courell
David CourellFAI

Football Association of Ireland website