Back in 1973 a very special and historical event took place in Dublin, Ireland. An All Ireland team were picked for a friendly game v. Brazil, 37 000 people watched as the World Cup holders won the “friendly” 4-3.
Former fox Derek Dougan, Mick Martin and Terry Conroy scored the goals for the All Ireland team who was named Shamrock XI due to the reason that it was a game not really favored by the FA of N Ireland and with players form their nation in the team.
So why would Brazil, the World Cup holders go to Ireland for a friendly and play a team that had the name Shamrock IX. This was in the middle of a relatively hard conflict in the N Ireland, but football seldom bows for reasons not part of their own World.
But often as we have seen politics can be used in the opposite way, this time it was really for football political reasons that the game was being arranged. Brazil were eager to get their candidate Joao Havelange elected to get him in as president of FIFA, and to collect votes, a game like this could be good for electing votes.
Another reason was that Brazil had not played overseas since 1966, a World Cup tournament that never ended happily, and to meet the 1974 World Cup in West Germany in the best way possible, they had made a decision to prepare with friendlies being played in Europe a year before.
The Republic of Ireland had a year before been invited to play in a tournament in Brazil were they took part, but the team that the Republic was able to field was probably not as good as an All Ireland team, and then the story told was that former Leicester City forward Derek Dougan and Leeds United midfielder Johnny Giles were given the job to get together an All Ireland team to field forcefully against Brazil, and indeed they managed to find a good mix and blend among professional players playing in England.
In that squad of players we have mentioned Derek Dougan who was part of the organising comity and at the age of 35 still a player to count at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Bryan Hamilton and Martin O’Neill (previously being in management at Leicester City) at the time players at Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest were also in action.
Other known names to participate was Pat Jennings, Don Givens, the other two goalscorers earlier mentioned, Conroy and Martin. Not to forget former Ipswich Town defender Allan Hunter and Crystal Palace full back Paddy Mulligan.
In 2012 a reunion of that special game was taking place in Ireland were most of the players involved and still living attended and put a mark on that eventful occasion.
Despite this special game 45 years ago, religion is still part of football in Ireland as N Irish born catholic players are invited to play for the Republic, and they are approached, despite the opposite said. But deciding to play for one or another nation would hopefully only have to do with footballing and not political or religious reasons.
The game in itself was the first arranged since 1950, when the full island of Ireland played a united team, and today both nations are quite happy to have their own teams competing and since the 70’s both nations have occasionally been reaching the finals of both World Cup’s and Euro’s. To see two such small nations being able to year after year field good and forceful teams are impressive indeed.
- Wikipedia, Shamrock XI v Brazil
- BBC Sports, Republic boss Martin O’Neill hits back at catholic remarks by N Ireland manager
- History Ireland, Shamrock XI v Brazil
- Soccervoice, The Irish football league adventure, myths under treat songs to be rewritten