Association FootballFurther information: Association football in Northern Ireland and Association football in the Republic of Ireland
Association football, usually known as "soccer" or "football", is the team sport with the highest level of participation in the Republic of Ireland. The national body in the Republic of Ireland is the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) while the national body in Northern Ireland is the Irish Football Association (IFA).
The domestic leagues are the League of Ireland (in the Republic) and the IFA Premiership (Northern Ireland). Some of the major teams in Ireland include St Patrick's Athletic, Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians in the Republic, Glentoran and Linfield in Northern Ireland, and Derry City, a team from the North who play in the League of Ireland. Due to the financial incentives abroad, most of Ireland's top players, such as Damien Duff, John O'Shea, Aiden McGeady and Jonny Evans, play in the leagues of larger European countries, particularly in England and Scotland. Another major Ireland star, Robbie Keane, now plays in the USA after a long tenure in England. This, along with the Irish media's huge coverage of the English league, is one of the reasons why Irish people tend to support leading British clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Celtic and Rangers. Rarely does a League of Ireland player make the national team, despite the fact that the league continues to produce some of Ireland's top players including current internationals Kevin Doyle, Shane Long and Noel Hunt and players like Roy Keane in the past. The most recent appearance for the Republic of Ireland by a then participating League of Ireland player was Joe Gamble's in 2007. In 2009 however, Bohemian FC goalkeeper Brian Murphy was called up to the Irish squad for the World Cup play-off against France. Occasional appearances of Irish League players for Northern Ireland have been known.
On the international stage, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland teams have both competed in three FIFA World Cups, with the Republic also appearing in a single European Championships and set to appear in their second in 2012. Starting in 2011, both national teams on the island compete with Scotland and Wales in the Nations Cup, intended to be held in odd-numbered years. The inaugural competition, won by the Republic of Ireland, was held in Dublin at the new Aviva Stadium, which also hosted the 2011 UEFA Europa League Final.
The Milk Cup is a successful international youth tournament held annually in Northern Ireland, in which clubs and national teams from anywhere in the world may compete. Northern Ireland also played host to the 2005 UEFA Under-19 European Championships.
The Setanta Sports Cup was set up by its sponsors, television channel Setanta Ireland. It is an all-island mini-World Cup style tournament featuring teams from both domestic leagues. The first four editions (2005 through 2008) featured eight teams, four from the League of Ireland and four from the Irish League, and were conducted with groups of four teams, semi-finals and a final. Beginning with the 2009–10 edition, the competition features nine teams, with the extra team being the current Setanta Cup holders; the tournament has been reorganised into three groups of three clubs each, followed by semi-finals and a final. Despite fairly low turnouts for each jurisdiction's leagues, the Setanta Cup has so far drawn relatively successful gate receipts.
Read more about this topic: Sport In The Republic Of Ireland
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