A FING GAEL senator has echoed the calls from Sinn Féin for there to be an all Ireland soccer team saying there is no better time for the issue to be considered.
With the Republic of Ireland preparing for their Euro 2012 campaign and talk that the Republic could co-host Euro 2020, senator Catherine Noone believes there is no better time than now for the issue to be considered.
She said: “Players from both sides of the border have already proven that they can collaborate and thrive with an all-island rugby team, and I think a unified soccer team would also have considerable advantages.
“Consider the fact that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have never qualified for the same tournament – the opportunity cost, in this instance, is minimal.”
Her words echo those of Sinn Féin whose members called for the creation of such a team at the party’s Ard Fheis in Killarney recently, arguing that other sports such as rugby, cricket and international rules already had all island teams.
Noone encouraged the Football Association of Ireland and the North’s Irish Football Association to learn from the experience of the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) which operates on an all island basis selecting players from the four provinces.
“A unified team, drawing from a deeper pool of talent, with the support of the entire island, would enhance our chances to qualify for international tournaments more regularly,” she said.
“You only need to look at the great players who have lined out for Northern Ireland in the past including George Best, Pat Jennings and Danny Blanchflower to see the potential long term benefits of merging teams from both side of the border.”
Noone acknowledged that while it was an issue for the two associations she said that many people “don’t see any real barriers to this happening”.