From the Archives: Ireland 3 – 3 Norway, November 1937

In 1937, Irish football was in fairly healthy state, and had in many respects weather many of the worst storms of the decade. Domestic football had mixed fortunes in the 1930s, growing in popularity and casting off its image as the foreign game. At the same time, the games newfound popularity and the growth of the Free State League faced many difficulties as a result of the deep depression that Ireland, and the world, found itself early in the decade following the Wall Street Crash of 1929. 1937 saw a first for Irish soccer, as we played Norway in our first competitive fixtures against one another at the end of the year which would be forever famous as the year that our new constitution came into force.

While most people will probably recall the game between both countries at USA ’94 in the group stages, our history of competing against one another goes back much, much further. Back in 1937, over the course of a month, Norway and Ireland played each other twice, in a pair of games for World Cup qualification – the new competition which had begun at the start of that tumultuous decade in 1930. The first game was played in Oslo at Ullevål Stadion, which I wrote about yesterday, and saw the Norwegians beat Ireland by three goals to two. Two of the winning goals were scored Reidar Kvammen, then a young policeman playing for Vikings in Stavanger where he would spend his whole career. Kvammen would also go on to be the first Norwegian player to reach fifty international caps, and he scored a career total of 17 international goals. The game was played in front of Norwegian king Håkon and Prince Olav.

The journey to get to Oslo was a gruelling one – the players went firs to Newcastle by boat and then onwards to Bergen, before a twelve hour journey from Bergen to Oslo. (Evening Herald, October 6 1937) However, the trip was not all travelling, with the Irish Press reporting that the players would be brought to see the viking ships at Bygdøy and dine at Frognersæteren Restaurant in Oslo before heading back to Bergen to begin the return leg of their trip. They even managed while in Newcastle, and waiting to head to Bergen, to catch Celtic take on Sunderland at Roker Park. (Irish Press, October 9 1937)

While there was disappointment with the loss from Irish officials, the trip was a success from a cultural exchange point of view. The Norwegian Fotballforbund (NFF) gave the Irish team a silver replica of a Viking ship as a gift, while the FAIFS gave their Norwegian counterparts a Belleek statue representing the figure of  Eire. (Irish Press, October 14 1937)

The return game v Norway, and the prospect of getting to the World Cup proper was seen as an opportunity to get one up for the FAIFS against all the other home nation sides who were not taking part in the newly minted competition.

When the Norwegians came to visit Dublin, they stayed at the Gresham Hotel, and were received at Government buildings by President Eamon de Valera. Their post match dinner was at the Royal Hibernian Hotel.This game was a draw, with the Irish team getting a late equaliser to make it 3-3, however this wasn’t enough and Norway progressed. Remarkably footage of the game survives:

Not only footage, but here you can hear the Norwegian state broadcaster, NRK, radio coverage of the game, including a brief few words from then Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alfie Byrne. The Evening Herald, in a colour piece about the second game in Dublin, made some reference to the longer history between the countries, with a correspondent writing that:

Once again the Norsemen have carried out a raid. It was vastly different from those perpetrated by their forefathers in the distant past, but even the modern Norsemen did not go away empty handed – they took away with them Ireland’s hopes of remaining in the World’s Cup competition.

There was a definite feeling that this was a bit of a missed opportunity since the the Irish team came back from 3-1 down to draw the game 3-3, though it was too little too late. Ireland would have to wait until 1990 before finally reaching a World Cup final competition, starting an era on unprecedented success for the national team but in 1937, they came very close indeed against Norway.

From The Archives: Ireland v Bulgaria Paris Olympics,1924


As you probably know by now, Ireland became an independent state in 1922. As well as the GAA, athletes competing on the world stage at the Olympics, often under the flag of the United Kingdom, also did their part in promoting a separate national identity – especially in displays at the Olympics. That story is best told in Kevin McCarthy in his wonderful book Gold, Silver, Green: The Irish Olympic Journey 1896-1924 (Cork: 2010).

The Olympics got under way this evening with the women’s football and although football isn’t considered to be really what the Olympics is all about (it’s about this and this and this mostly), it is historically at least, very important to the story of Irish soccer. Continue reading “From The Archives: Ireland v Bulgaria Paris Olympics,1924”

From The Archives: Ireland v Yugoslavia 1955, When Football Became a Mortal Sin

One of the great bogey-men of the Irish twentieth century is former Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.  His considerable influence is summed up neatly in  John Cooney’s 1999 biography, Ruler of Catholic Ireland where Cooney writes

Continue reading “From The Archives: Ireland v Yugoslavia 1955, When Football Became a Mortal Sin”

From The Archives: Ireland v Germany 1936

By David Toms

With the European hangover well and truly recovered from, and the World Cup qualifying campaign due to start in the not-too-distant future, it’s time to take a look back to when Ireland thrashed Germany 5-2. If nothing else, it might help to get the belief up after a fairly deflating summer on the international front. Famous now as much for the remarkable newsreel footage of the game and the infamous match-day programme displaying the Nazi flag, the game was an important victory for the Irish side and for the organisers of the game in the country. Continue reading “From The Archives: Ireland v Germany 1936”

From The Archives: Waterford FC v Manchester United FC

A while back, I wrote  a piece for Pue’s Occurrences, sadly a now defunct history website, about the football programme as historical source. Amongst my prize possessions are the programmes for the two legs of Waterford’s European Cup tie with newly-crowned European Champions, Manchester United, in 1968.With the first round of qualifiers for next season’s European football currently underway in Ireland, we thought it would be fun to look back at the year when Manchester United visited Dublin to play the men from the sunny south-east, Waterford FC.

In 1968, Manchester United won the European Cup by defeating Benfica soundly 4-1. This made them the first English winners of the European Cup and brought to an end a story that began with a plane crash a full decade earlier. That Manchester United team, probably one of the most celebrated in the history of the game began the defense of that title on the 18th of September 1968 in Lansdowne Road against Waterford Football Club.

Continue reading “From The Archives: Waterford FC v Manchester United FC”

From the Archives: Irish Free State League v Welsh League

Today, Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm passed away at the age of 95. Hobsbawm’s quest for writing history that mattered led him to write about everything from shoemakers, tradition, jazz and sports while also providing us with one of the greatest multi-volume histories of Europe ever produced and ever likely to be produced. Continue reading “From the Archives: Irish Free State League v Welsh League”