Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Should there be all-Ireland football team? Gregory Campbell says 'No'

By Rebecca Black

Sinn Fein's renewed push for an all-Ireland football team has been met with a frosty reception from the DUP.

The republican party has published a video online entitled 'Unity is better for Irish sport', showing images of the Irish rugby team and other sports where athletes from across Ireland compete together.

It also includes a quote from late Northern Ireland and Manchester United legend George Best saying he hoped to see an all-island team in his lifetime.

"Irish sports teams are stronger and better when they are all-Ireland teams," Sinn Fein said.

"Look at the success of our rugby teams and golfers.

"As an all-Ireland organisation, the GAA is unmatched by any other sports organisation. Support for an all-Ireland soccer team is growing.

"We are stronger and more successful together."

But former Sports Minister Gregory Campbell accused Sinn Fein of politicising football.

"The success of the Northern Ireland team in recent years is proof that when everyone pulls together and gets behind the team we do exceptionally well," the East Londonderry MP said.

"I don't see why anyone would want to back a proposal from Sinn Fein to try and incorporate Northern Ireland within the Republic's team, or to amalgamate them.

"If it was down to poor performance you may as well advocate that Scotland goes into the English team, and I think there is no likelihood of that happening with the degree of competition that exists between those two.

"Northern Ireland has done exceptionally well and will continue to do so if everybody backs the team, rather than raise politicised arguments which will only make supporting Northern Ireland a little more difficult rather than less so."

There was briefly an all-island team in 1973 when a side made up of players from Northern Ireland and the Republic played together as a Shamrock Rovers XI against Brazil at Lansdowne Road.

The team included noted players like goalkeeper Pat Jennings, midfielder John Giles and Martin O'Neill, who is now manager of the Republic of Ireland team.

Northern Ireland and the Republic competed in the Euros in France earlier this year, and are both in with a real chance of making it to the 2018 World Cup in Russia after making good starts in their qualifiying groups.

Belfast Telegraph


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