Overview

The capital of the Republic of Ireland will stage its first major European club final when the UEFA Europa League concludes at the Dublin Arena on Wednesday 18 May 2011.

Football in Ireland has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. Belfast merchant John M McAlery first introduced the game in 1878, having discovered it during a trip to Edinburgh in Scotland.

Sometime later on 1 June 1921, the Football Association of Ireland was formally established in Dublin. In 1923, the 'home' countries England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland recognised the new association in the south following pressure from FIFA. At that time, the words 'Free State' were added to the official title.

Although a team representing the south was entered for the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, it was not until March 1926 that the new body was involved in its first full international, a 3-0 defeat by Italy in Turin. The team played its first FIFA World Cup qualifying game in February 1934, drawing 4-4 against Belgium at Dublin's Dalymount Park.

The Republic of Ireland had never qualified for a major tournament until the 1988 UEFA European Championship under Jack Charlton, where they famously beat England 1-0, and then reached three out of the next four World Cups. Their pinnacle was a quarter-final appearance in Italy in 1990, when they lost by a single goal to the hosts in Rome. At the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan, the Irish produced some scintillating displays, only denied a last-eight place by a penalty shoot-out defeat by Spain.

On the domestic front, the league championship and Irish Cup were first staged in 1921/22 and resulted in a double triumph for St James's Gate FC. The inaugural league season involved eight clubs and it was only in 1985/86 that a two-divisional structure was introduced.

Shamrock Rovers FC entered the league in its second year and won the title at the first attempt. The Hoops, as they are affectionately known, are Ireland's most successful team with 15 championships and 24 Irish Cups, both records. In recent times, the league has been dominated by Shelbourne FC and Bohemian FC, before Shamrock Rovers regained the title in 2010; their first in 16 years.

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