Belfast Telegraph

Single Irish football team 'needed'

Martin McGuinness has reiterated his desire for an all-Ireland international football team after visiting the home of the Northern Irish side for the first time in almost 50 years.

Stormont's deputy first minister was at Windsor Park in Belfast to watch a club game between his team Derry City and hosts Linfield.

The Sinn Fein veteran's attendance at a stadium with a history of sectarian problems and still viewed by many republicans as a cold house for Catholics represented another landmark in improving cross-community relations in Northern Ireland.

It came weeks after Democratic Unionist First Minister Peter Robinson was guest at his first Gaelic football match, a sport almost exclusively associated with the nationalist tradition.

Former IRA commander Mr McGuinness, who last visited Windsor Park in 1964 before the Troubles began, said the warm welcome he received last night was a sign of changed times.

Windsor Park is the home of Linfield FC and the Northern Ireland team play their international matches there. But many nationalists who live north of the border choose to support the Republic of Ireland.

Derry City compete in the Republic of Ireland's domestic league, having left Northern Ireland's top division during the Troubles.

The 1-1 draw against Linfield was in the Setanta Cup, a competition involving teams from both leagues.

The deputy first minister has indicated he would be willing to attend a Northern Ireland game in the future but he stressed his hope that Ireland would one day be represented by one team, with one main league in the island.

"Monday night's game was my first time at Windsor Park since the early sixties," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph