Today marks the 90th anniversary of Ireland’s first ever international football match and four Shamrock Rovers started that historic game.
On Sunday 21st March 1926, in front of a crowd of 12,000 in the Motovelodromo, Turin, the Irish Free State football team took to the field to face an Italian side in a friendly. The very first Boys in Green went on to lose 3-0 to their hosts.
Lining out for the visitors were Hoops players Dinny Doyle, John “Kruger” Fagan, JJ Flood and the legend Bob Fullum.
Ireland teams had been competing since the 1880’s and up until 1924 Ireland was represented by one team run by the Belfast based IFA.
Following partition a Dublin based organisation known as the FAIFS (Football Association of the Irish Free State) split from the IFA and began organising it’s own league and national team.
In 1923, the FAIFS was recognised by FIFA as the governing body of the Irish Free State and at the 1924 Olympics the Irish Free State made their international debut.
However the status of the Olympic Games football competition was later downgraded and as a result this game in Turin is widely regarded as the Irish Free State’s first official game.
Rovers, who at the time were the reigning league champions and FAI Cup holders, had the most representation on this first ever team, the rest of the side was made up of players from Shels, Fordsons, Drumcondra and Bohs.
The newspaper reports of the time all agreed that the Ireland team were deservedly beaten with the Irish Independent reporting that “Italy surprised the Irishmen by their splendid combination which was perfect at times.”
Even though Ireland’s shooting was “wretched” Rovers forward JJ Flood was “unlucky not to find the net” and one of the “few players to distinguish himself.”
Mr R.F. Murphy of the FAIFS reported that “little was known of the form of the Italian players and news of their excellence will come as a surprise to many.” Indeed!
The Indo were however sympathetic to the Irish team and said there had been mitigating circumstances behind the heavy defeat.
“Some allowance has to be made for the disadvantage which the Free State players suffered as a result of travelling. They left Dublin on St. Patricks Day and arrived in Turin at 6pm on Saturday after a tedious journey.”
The two teams would meet again the following year in Lansdowne Road and Bob Fullum became the first player to score for the country in a 2-1 defeat.
Here are some of the members of that historic team in action for The Hoops v Bohs in a 2-0 win in the 1st Rd of the Irish Free State Cup on 20th January 1926.