27 April 2012

Olympians

London 2012 saw a UK football team compete at the Olympics for the first time since 1960, having not even entered since the 1972 event. A British team (in various guises) has won the Olympic tournament three times and competed at the finals on a further six occasions. Similarly, the Irish Free State/Eire has competed at the Olympic finals twice.

Prior to 1972 the tournament was for amateur players only, and as such a number of (Northern) Ireland Amateur internationals were selected for the British and Irish squads. The "Great Britain" team has generally been organised by the (English) FA at the request of the British Olympic Committee and, as such, English players have tended to dominate selections. On a number of occasion squads were solely made up of England players as the other Home Nation FAs failed to come to an agreement regarding squad make-up.


The modern Olympic tournament is competed for by under-23 teams with three over-age players allowed. Qualification for European teams is usually via the UEFA Under-21 Championships though as the UK home nations all compete separately this has previously made it impossible for a team to enter. As hosts the team qualified automatically, but their appearance proved controversial as some regard it as weakening the individual nations' independence.


Since 1996 there has also been a Women's tournament, though, unlike the Men's competition, this is competed for by full strength teams. UEFA-based women's teams usually qualify via performances at the FIFA Women's World Cup.


Listed below are results from Olympic qualifying and finals tournaments in which (Northern) Ireland players have featured. The Olympic teams also played a number of other exhibition games, trial matches and friendlies. Details of such matches that are considered "internationals" are included in the accompanying text where they are of interest.


Work in progress.


Athens 1896

Berlin 1936
Bertie Fulton's Olympic ID
(Roy Cathcart)

No tournament

Paris 1900

UK (gold medal)
(Upton Park FC represented the UK)

St Louis 1904

UK 
(did not enter a team)

London 1908

UK (gold medal)
(squad made up of English players only)

Stockholm 1912

UK (gold medal)
(squad made up of English players only)

Antwerp 1920

UK (first round)
(squad made up of English players only)

Paris 1924

UK (did not enter a team) 
(The Home Nations were in dispute with FIFA regarding the definition of amateur players)

Irish Free State (quarter-finals)

Results
Players
--/05/1924
1st rd
-bye-
-
-
Bohemians
2/0
28/05/1924
2nd rd
Bulgaria
W
1-0
Athlone Town
2/0
02/06/1924
Q-F
Netherlands
L
1-2
aet
St James' Gate
0/0

After being eliminated the Irish side remained in Paris to play Estonia on 3rd June. Jack McCarthy played in a 3-1 win. On their return to Dublin they faced the USA Olympic side on 14th June. Frank Collins kept goal and Ned Brooks scored a hattrick in a 3-1 win, though neither of these players had been part of the squad that traveled to France for the tournament.

These were the first international representative matches played by the Irish Free State and, although by British convention they are considered Amateur internationals, FIFA now regards them as full internationals.


Amsterdam 1928

UK (did not enter a team) 
(The Home Nations were in dispute with FIFA regarding the definition of amateur players)

Los Angeles 1932

No tournament

Berlin 1936

UK (quarter-finals)
Results
Players
06/08/1936
1st rd
China
W
2-0
(Belfast Celtic)
2/0
08/08/1936
Q-F
Poland
L
4-5
(Cliftonville)
0/0
Bertie Manderson acted as trainer for the team.

Following their eliminations the Great Britain team faced hosts Germany on 12th August in a hastily arranged friendly. Jimmy Gibb made his only appearance of the trip in a 4-1 defeat.


London 1948
UK (fourth place)
Results
Players
31/07/1948
1st rd
Netherlands
W
4-3
aet
Belfast Celtic
2/0
05/08/1948
Q-F
France
W
1-0
Barnet
3/1
11/08/1948
S-F
Yugoslavia
L
1-3
13/08/1948
Bronze
Denmark
L
3-5

Prior to the start of the Olympics the Great Britain team played a handful of games in Europe. McAlinden kept goal in a 2-1 defeat by the Netherlands on 20th June and Denis Kelleher scored in a 3-2 win over France on 25th July.

Eire (preliminary round)
Results
Players
26/07/1948
Prelim
Netherlands
L
1-3
Bohemians
1/0
London 1948
Eire Olympic Squad
Johnny Carey was the Eire team's head coach.

* The USA team visited Belfast after the tournament where they were defeated 5-0 by an Irish FA XI on 11th August.


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In 1950 the issue of dual Irish internationals was ended by FIFA. Thereafter, this article only concerns players born within the territory of Northern Ireland.


Helsinki 1952

UK (preliminary round)
Results
Players
16/07/1952
Prelim
Luxembourg
L
3-5
aet
Cliftonville
0/0

Bruce Shiells featured alongside McGarry in a trial match against England B on 30 April. Two warm-up matches were played against West Germany in May with games against Greece and Norway held after elimination. No Irish players featured in any of these matches.

Melbourne 1956

UK (second round)
(squad made up of English players only)

Rome 1960

UK (first round)
Results
Players

Qual
Fin
21/11/1959
Qual
Rep..Ireland (h)
W
3-2
Tooting.&.Mitcham
1/3
3/2
13/03/1960
Qual
Rep. Ireland (a)
W
3-1
Glenavon
*
1/0
02/04/1960
Qual
Netherlands (a)
W
5-1
Ballymena Utd
2/0
0/0
13/04/1960
Qual
Netherland (h)
D
2-2

26/08/1960
1st.rd
Brazil
L
3-4

29/08/1960
1st.rd
Italy
D
2-2

01/09/1960
1st.rd
Taiwan±
W
3-2
* unused reserve during qualifying series.
± the name of the Taiwan team is widely disputed and in various sources is listed as Formosa, Chinese Taipei or the Republic of China.

Prior to the finals Great Britain played against Italy on 14th May. Hugh Forde and Jimmy Quail played in a 5-1 defeat in Brescia. Quail did not return to Italy for the Olympic tournament.

Rome 1960
Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Squad (BBC)


Tokyo 1964

UK (qualification series)
Results
Players
Qual
09/09/1963
1st Qual
Iceland (a)
W
6-0

Hendon
2/0
14/09/1963
1st Qual
Iceland (h)
W
4-0
(10-0 agg)
Distillery
2/0
12/02/1964
2nd Qual
Greece (h)
W
2-1

Distillery
2/0
08/04/1964
2nd Qual
Greece (a)
L
1-4
(3-5 agg)
Glenavon
*
* unused reserve.

Other Northern Ireland players to have featured in trial and practice matches for Great Britain around this time include Eddie Reynolds (Wimbledon) and Malachy O'Neill (Coleraine).

Mexico 1968
UK (qualification series)
(squad made up of English and Scottish players only)

Two Irish players, Jackie Patterson (Crusaders) and Dennis Guy (Glenavon), did play for a "British Amateur Select" against Queen's Park as they celebrated their centenary in August 1967. Thereafter the FA-appointed selectors and staff strongly favoured English players, with Scots coming on board late-on.


Munich 1972

UK (qualification series)
Results
Players
Qual
24/03/1971
1st Qual
Bulgaria (h)
W
1-0
Distillery
*
05/05/1971
1st Qual
Bulgaria (a)
L
0-5
(1-5 agg)
-
-
-
* unused reserve.

An all-English Great Britain Olympic XI played a trial match against a mostly amateur Irish FA XI in February 1971. The final match for an Amateur Great Britain Olympic side was played against eventual gold medalists, Bulgaria. The squad was made up of 15 Englishmen and one Welshman, the unused reserve goalkeeper.

Montreal 1976 - Beijing 2008

UK 
(did not enter a team)

London 2012

UK
Mens:
Chris Brunt (80-man long-list)
Womens:
Emma Higgins (stand-by)

Rio 2014 - date

UK 
(did not enter a team)

Other Olympic links:

Sammy Moore competed at water polo at the 1928 Olympics.
Kevin O'Flanagan was a member of various Olympic committees over several decades.


London 1948
GB & NI line-out for first round match
GB 4-3 [aet] Netherlands
London 1948
Goalkeeper Kevin McAlinden in action in semi-final
GB 1-3 Yugoslavia
London 2012
Emma Higgins (BBC/Getty)


Links:

BBC - Bertie Fulton at the 1936 Olympics
BBC - GB Team at 1960 Olympics
FIFA
RSSSF
England Football Online

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