Football

Brian Kerr Has Cynical Reason For Why There Won't Be A United Ireland Team

Brian Kerr Has Cynical Reason For Why There Won't Be A United Ireland Team

'Division: The Irish Soccer Split' aired on RTÉ One on Wednesday night.

The superb documentary charts how the rift between the Irish Football Association and what became the Football Association of Ireland occurred. It also details the subsequent relationship between the two organisations and the possibility of there one day being an All-Ireland team.

Speaking in the documentary, Brian Kerr said that though a united team would benefit football, he cannot envision it happening.

"Is there a willingness to have an All-Ireland team? I don't see that," said Kerr.

It would be like the turkeys voting for Christmas if the administrators voted for an All-Ireland team because it would mean half of them being out of business - half of them would have to hand back their blazers.

They would miss out on their trips, their benefits, their expenses, their ability to get on UEFA committees, FIFA committees and all the perks which go with that.

I believe that we would be better with a full, professional All-island league. I believe that we would be better with an All-Ireland soccer team but that doesn't mean it's going to happen.

In the years following the split, there were attempts at reunification. Historian Cormac Moore, on whose book the documentary is based, tells of a meeting in 1924. FAI delegates who travelled to Belfast believed they had returned with terms so good, a union was inevitable. However, the powers that be in the FAI turned it down as the chairman would have remained an IFA chairman. They wanted the position to rotate.

Following another meeting in 1932, the IFA agreed to alternate chairmen, rotate matches between Belfast and Dublin and have equal membership on sub-committees. The Irish Times reported that reunification was on the verge of taking place. However, at the last minute, the FAI demanded a seat on the International Football Association Board. This was turned down by the IFA and relations remained frosty for decades.

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Gerry Taggart, the former Northern Ireland international, is one of those who wants an All-Ireland team.

"Why would you do give yourself the best chance of doing well?" said Taggart.

"I'm from Northern Ireland but I consider myself to be a son of Ireland. I support the rugby team. You can't pick holes in the rugby, there's players from the North that play and players from the South - what's the difference?"

Niall Quinn was also one of the voices in the documentary. He left room for hope regarding a United Ireland team.

"The rugby lads show that it can all work together," said Quinn.

"I would not give up on the idea that it would happen one day."

You can watch 'Division: The Irish Soccer Split' on the RTÉ Player.

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PJ Browne
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