Time for North and South to kick together
Madam, - Sound football logic would indicate that after the very poor showing of the Northern Ireland soccer team, and the equally mediocre display by the Republic's side in the recent European Championship qualifiers, steps should be taken to field an All-Ireland soccer team to represent the 32 counties. It makes no sense for a small island such as ours to field two international sides.
Both parts of Ireland have done reasonably well in recent World Cups and European Championships in recent years; but realistically neither is ever likely to be in with a serious chance of winning either such competitions outright. Politics and nationalism are often mentioned by people opposed to an all-Ireland soccer team but I feel that the construction of a new 60,000 capacity stadium, just north of the border on the main Belfast- Dublin Road close to Newry, jointly financed by the British and Irish Governments under the Good Friday Agreement, would cater for the aspirations of soccer supporters, both nationalist and unionist, in the same manner as the Irish rugby team has managed to bring both parts of Ireland together in joint support.
I would propose that in such a set-up neither the British national anthem nor the Soldier's Song would be played; they could be replaced by Danny Boy or the Mountains of Mourne, or some new anthem acceptable to both supporters. Both the Union Jack and the Tricolour could be flown in the new stadium, representing both traditions in Ireland.
The alternative is the status quo, with both international sides in green fielding lame duck teams. I am convinced that no unionist or loyalist who really loved his or her soccer could really object to an All-Ireland team comprised of players from British sides, playing an essentially English game. - Yours, etc.,