TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has proposed the creation of an all-Ireland soccer team to play charity matches against England.
Kenny suggested that a combined 32-county selection could take on England every two years with the proceeds going to benefit children’s hospitals on both sides of the border.
The games would be an occasion of integration of sport, he said, but would also have a real impact on hospitals’ research and development.
Kenny was speaking at the Joint Sports and Reconciliation Conference in Armagh this morning where he was joined by Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.
The cross-border proposal is for sporting organisations to examine rather than politicians, he said.
Speaking on the Late Late Show tonight, the chief executive of the FAI John Delaney said that he would “love to see an All Ireland team”.
But he said this was a personal view and said it would be something that would have to be discussed and agreed at a political level.
IFA chief executive Patrick Nelson is reported to have told PA that his association would have no appetite for such a set up now or in the future.
Sinn Féin described the Taoiseach’s comments as welcome development.
The relationship between the FAI and the IFA has been strained in recent years following a number of high-profile defections from north to south including Darron Gibson, James McClean and Marc Wilson.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill played down the possibility of more players making the switch this week following the appointment of Martin O’Neill as Republic boss.
“I don’t think it will be an issue at all to be honest,” O’Neill told Sky Sports. “It doesn’t really matter who is in charge of the Republic in terms of the eligibility question.
“My focus, pure and simple, is to make sure that our young players know what we are trying to do as an association and what we are trying to build with our younger players in terms of giving them the chance of having an international career.”
- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell
First published 1.42pm