Sport in Northern Ireland

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Sport in Northern Ireland is important in the lives of many people. Most sports are organised on an all-Ireland basis, for example rugby union, gaelic games, basketball, rugby league, hockey and cricket, whereas others, like association football and netball are organised on a separate basis for Northern Ireland.1


Association football

The Irish Football Association (IFA) is the organising body for football (soccer) in Northern Ireland, and was historically the governing body for the whole of the island.

The IFA sits on the International Football Association Board, which is responsible for the laws of the game.

The Northern Ireland Women's Football Association (NIWFA) is the IFA's women's football arm. It runs a Women's Cup, Women's League and the Northern Ireland women's national football team.

Many football fans in Northern Ireland prefer to support teams from England such as Manchester United and Liverpool and teams from Scotland such as Celtic and Rangers.

Domestic competitions

The domestic league is the IFA Premiership. Some of the major teams include Linfield F.C., and Glentoran F.C.. Derry City FC is based in Northern Ireland but plays in the Republic of Ireland's league.

The Milk Cup is a successful international youth tournament held annually in Northern Ireland, in which clubs and national teams from anywhere in the world may compete. Northern Ireland also played host to the 2005 UEFA Under-19 European Championships.

The Setanta Sports Cup was set up by its sponsors, television channel Setanta Ireland. It is an all-island tournament, featuring twelve teams, six from the League of Ireland and six from the Irish League. Despite fairly low turn-outs for each jurisdiction's leagues,citation needed the Setanta Cup drew relatively successful gate receiptscitation needed and in five editions has had one winner from Northern Ireland (Linfield in 2005).

National team

Northern Ireland's international team, despite a poor run of form in the late 1990s and first few years of the 21st century, and a corresponding slump in the FIFA World Rankings, enjoyed great success in the early and mid-1980s and recently had a revival in their fortunes under manager former Lawrie Sanchez, with home wins over Spain and England.

Most of the players come from the English or Scottish leagues although occasional appearances of Irish League players have been known.

Gaelic games

Gaelic games include Gaelic football, hurling, and Gaelic handball.

Governing body

The governing body is the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The GAA is divided into provincial boards in Ireland and abroad. In Ireland, the four provincial boards are Munster GAA, Ulster GAA, Connacht GAA and Leinster GAA. Gaelic games in Northern Ireland are controlled by the Ulster Provincial Board, which covers all nine counties of Ulster.

Competitions

Every footballer or hurler plays for a local club, with the best players being selected for county panels. Each county has its own county championship, with the winners going on to play in the Ulster Senior Club Football Championship or Ulster Senior Club Hurling Championship. Crossmaglen Rangers are currently the most successful football club in Northern Ireland.

The county teams play in pre-season competitions, such as the National Football League, which serves as preparation for the Ulster Senior Football Championship and All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. The hurling equivalents are the National Hurling League, Ulster Senior Hurling Championship and All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. In recent years, the most successful football teams from Northern Ireland have been Tyrone GAA and Armagh GAA. Hurling teams from Northern Ireland have found it difficult to make an impact against the top counties from the Republic, with Antrim GAA the most successful.

County players may be selected for the Ulster provincial side to play in the Railway Cup. At international level, footballers can play for the Ireland International Rules football team against the best Australian Rules football players from Australia. Hurlers playing in the lower divisions of the All-Ireland Championship are eligible to play against the best shinty players from Scotland in composite rules shinty-hurling.

Rugby union

Rugby union is a popular team sport played in Ireland. The sport is organised on an all-Ireland basis with one team, governing body and league for both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Governing body Irish Rugby Football Union

The Irish Rugby Football Union is the governing body for rugby union in Ireland. The IRFU is divided into four branches which represent the four provinces of Ireland: Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht.

Competitions

See also Irish rugby union system

Irish provinces compete in the Celtic League, now sponsored by Magners, against Welsh regions and Scotland super-districts. The four Irish provinces also compete in the Heineken Cup.

Competitions have taken place since the late 19th century with the modern day Inter-provincial Championship between Munster, Leinster, Ulster and Connacht first contested in 1920.

Another focus for the domestic game in Ireland is the All-Ireland League. This was started in 1990 and has now expanded to three divisions.

Statistics

According to the IRB, Ireland has 201 rugby union clubs; 614 referees; 25,000 pre-teen male players; 35,000 teen male players; 14,500 senior male players (total male players 74,500) as well as 10,000 pre-teen female players; 800 teen female players; 1,200 senior female players (total female players 12,000).

The IRFU Annual Report for season 2006–2007 reported playing figures within Ireland as follows:

  • Adult Male Players: 21740
  • Women Players: 1756
  • Number of Secondary Schools Players: 23586
  • Number of Youth Players: 12472
  • Number of Mini Rugby Players: 10967
  • Primary School: 32209
  • TOTAL PLAYERS: 100974

Current trends

The professional era and the advent of the Celtic League and Heineken Cup has seen rugby union become a major spectator sport in Ireland. European Cup games are generally well supported in all the provinces with sell outs the norm and massive crowds in Dublin's Lansdowne Road for the Quarter and Semis which Ulster have won and Munster and Leinster have reached. Ulster have led the Celtic League attendances for 3 years in the row and Connacht, Munster and Leinster's crowds have grown year on year. All the provinces are planning major ground upgrades to increase capacity and comfort.

Ireland international games sell out against all but the weakest opposition, and with the team playing at Croke Park this year the attendances may reach 80,000.

The All-Ireland national team

The Ireland national team are considered by the IRB to be in the first tier.

Ireland contest the Millennium Trophy with England as part of the Six Nations Championship.

Every four years the British and Irish Lions go on tour with players from Ireland as well as England, Scotland and Wales.

Cricket

Ireland compete against Essex at Castle Avenue

Cricket in Northern Ireland is was a minority sport till recently, but the game has really got popular among the citizens because of the recent success stories of Irish Cricket Team, which represents both countries of Ireland.2 Cricket is now getting more and more popular thanks to Ireland's successful Cricket World Cup campaign in 2007 and 2011. It has been played here since the early 19th century, against Scotland (a match which has first-class status) has been played annually since 1909. The Irish team was fairly strong in the mid and late 19th century, and sent several touring parties abroad, but development of the sport was adversely affected first by the Gaelic Athletic Association's ban on its members taking part in "foreign" sports and then by the creation of the Irish Free State; many of the best cricketers in Ireland had been British soldiers and civil servants and their withdrawal led to a decline in the overall standard of the game.

There have been brighter spots in recent years, however. Dublin-born batsman Ed Joyce has played with some success as part of Ireland's ICC Trophy team and is now a key member of the Middlesex side in England's County Championship; he captained the county in 2004. Interest in Irish cricket was also generated by the national team's startling victory over West Indies in 1969; they did it again on 17 June 2004. The sport is organised on an all-island basis and is overseen by the Cricket Ireland, founded in its present incarnation in 1923. Ireland has entered some domestic English tournaments since the early 1980s, but becoming an Associate Member of the International Cricket Council in 1993 paved the way for participation in international competition, and indeed the 2005 ICC Trophy was hosted by Ireland. The Irish finished second in the tournament, beaten by Scotland. Ireland has co-hosted the Cricket World Cup in 1999. Dublin also hosted one game of the 1999 World Cup. The 2007 World Cup which was held in the West Indies was a very successful tournament for the Irish Cricket team. Having qualified for the first time for the tournament, Ireland entered the arena with much to gain. Ireland tied the match with Test Cricket playing team Zimbabwe and shocked Pakistan by defeating them on St. Patrick's Day. Suddenly there was much talk about Cricket in Ireland. Ireland qualified for the super 8 and recorded some good results, including a win against Bangladesh. Ireland have been granted ODI status and now they appear in the ODI ranking table. In June 2007 Ireland played ODI matches against India and South Africa.3

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Ireland went on to win the 2009 ICC World Cup Qualifier, securing their place in the 2011 Cricket World Cup and ODI status for the next four years. At the World Cup, they made history by stunning heavily favoured England in pool play with the largest successful run chase in World Cup history, led by the fastest century in World Cup history from Kevin O'Brien.4

Basketball

For more international exposure, athletes from Northern Ireland have joined forces with Ireland and represent the Island of Ireland together as its own national team. The governing body of all basketball activities in the country is Basketball Northern Ireland.5

See also

References

External links








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