His legendary figure is now even more valuable because Airy, who has repeated the feat in 1994 and 2002, does not appear to be arriving in Qatar in 2022, after losing his first two qualifying matches to Serbia in Belgrade and Luxembourg in Dublin.
It is not a simple bump. Their coach, Stephen Kenny, has yet to win any of the eleven matches played since taking office a year ago.
On the other side of the border, in Northern Ireland, the situation is similar to the British Provincial National Team, which has also not stepped into the World Cup Finals since 1986.
The question many are asking is whether the time has come for this island to have one team, with Catholic and Protestant players, federal and national, British and Irish players.
Two from Ireland, choose one
The answer is a resounding “yes”, says EFE Cormac Moore, author of The Irish Football Divide (“The Irish Football Splinter”).
In fact, he explains that since the division of Ireland in 1921 into the current two jurisdictions – after the War of Independence with Great Britain – other sports have maintained a single choice, such as athletics, boxing, cricket, basketball, hockey and rugby.
“It was not the political situation, therefore, that was the main driver of this separation, but the power struggle between the Football Association, which is based in Belfast and was founded in 1880, and its delegation in Dublin, which understood that the North had discriminated against its colleagues from the South,” Moore says.
He adds that the armed confrontation during the civil war and the “feeling of damage”, precipitated the division and Dublin, as the capital of an independent nation, founded in 1921 the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), recognized by FIFA in 1921. 1923 and UEFA in 1954.
Moore recalls that during the 1970s, the two parties, supported by footballers of Northern Ireland standing, George Best, considered the possibility of forming a single team, but these efforts were derailed by the renewed conflict in the region.
With the peace process under way since 1998, the idea of reunification has crystallized again, although the arrival of another guest has chilled the spirits again: Brexit.
The UK’s exit from the European Union has exacerbated differences and suspicions between the two groups that have historically faced in Ulster, and who are now more than ever defending their “Irish” or “British” identity.
“This is important, because creating a single team requires cultural concessions, such as flags, coats of coats, slogans or chants. The Northern Ireland team, unlike the Scottish or Welshman, sings” God Save the Queen “before their matches, Moore notes.
In any case, “everything will be advantages,” in his opinion. He asserts that the union of the two federations, and perhaps the union of each of them (semi-professional), can emulate “the successes of other countries of similar size”, such as Denmark, Belgium or Uruguay.
Globalization and football
The current system does not allow for the money needed to improve the Irish and Northern quarries, Emmett Malone, a football specialist for The Irish Times, told EFE.
In addition, he says, globalization has changed the conditions that made the island have two relatively competitive teams until a few years ago, with players in important teams in the English first division.
“The Prime Minister is no longer solely dependent on Irish, Scottish or Welsh footballers, but above all, others from South America, Africa or Europe,” says Malone. “Our players have declined in quality in recent years.
In the 1992-1993 season, in the newly re-established Premier League, 16 Irish players appeared for the first time and were trained in the FA structures. “Between all of them – in detail – they played a total of 15,914 minutes and five of them belong to the clubs that finished in the top six.”
“In 2019, we had nine players who played 13,031 minutes together, but three of them were from midfield teams and six were bottom clubs,” says Malone.
In recent decades, the “Greens” have also not attracted the talent of UK-born Irish players, either because of sentimental reasons or because they realize they will not make it to the English team that chose to “sign” for Ireland.
This was, for example, the case of footballers such as Michael Robinson (Liverpool, Osasuna) or John Aldridge (Real Sociedad, Liverpool).