Republic of Ireland U17 girls side will fulfil competitive fixture against Israel

FAI confirm they have exceeded gender balance on their board with appointment of two women directors

The FAI has confirmed that the Republic of Ireland under-17 girls will fulfil their competitive fixture against Israel in Albania on February 23rd.

“We’re talking with both Uefa and also with the [Irish] Government,” FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill told reporters in Paris after the Nations League draw on Wednesday. “The Minister [of State for Sport Thomas Byrne] made clear his position on the pretty defining role of the governing body and in this case it’s Uefa, so we’ll continue to discuss. It has been useful to discuss it here [at Uefa Congress] with them.”

However, when Hill was asked if the Ireland under-17s would travel to Albania this month to play Israel on neutral territory due to security concerns, FAI president Paul Cooke said: “Yes.”

Uefa general secretary Theodore Theodoridis subsequently ruled out a similar ban on Israel, that is currently in place against the Russian football federation, following a formal request from 12 nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Jordan, to “take a decisive stand against the atrocities committed in Palestine and the war crimes in Gaza”.


“There was no such discussion or such intention from the Uefa administration,” said Theodoridis. “They are two completely different situations between the two countries. Don’t forget the start of the war in Russia and Ukraine and the start of what is happening now – which is regrettable, of course – in the Middle East.”

Within 48 hours of the Polish and Swedish football associations refusing to play Russia in World Cup playoffs in February 2022, Fifa and Uefa suspended all Russian club and national teams.

“I can’t imagine playing a match with the Russian national team in a situation when armed aggression in Ukraine continues,” tweeted Poland striker Robert Lewandowski. “Russian footballers and fans are not responsible for this, but we can’t pretend that nothing is happening.”

Iceland are expected to fulfil the Euro 2024 playoff against Israel in Budapest on March 21st. The winners face either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Ukraine in a final qualifier in Sarajevo on March 26th. If Israel or Ukraine reach the Euros in Germany this summer, they will compete in Group E against Romania in Munich, Slovakia in Düsseldorf and Belgium in Stuttgart.

Israel has been a member of Uefa since 1991, having been excluded from the Asian Football Confederation in 1974 when Kuwait and North Korea refused to play them. Two Israeli clubs, Maccabi Haifa and Maccabi Tel Aviv, who are managed by former Irish international Robbie Keane, are competing in this season’s Europa Conference League.

“I am trusting Fifa not to involve politics in football,” Israeli FA chief Niv Goldstein told Sky News.

The Ireland women’s basketball team refused to shake hands with their Israeli counterparts in Latvia this week after being accused of anti-Semitism. Fiba, the governing body, are looking into the Israeli basketball federation posting photos of their players posing with armed IDF soldiers in the lead-up to the game.

Despite five Irish players withdrawing in protest, due to the war in Gaza, Basketball Ireland chief executive John Feehan insisted that the fixture would go ahead, stating: “I’m not prepared to destroy my sport for a gesture that will have no impact.”

“Money is very important, it would be very detrimental to us,” said Feehan, the former Six Nations chief executive, after basketball’s governing body Fiba refused a postponement request and threatened fines of €180,000.

“We’re not a rich organisation. Not only would we be out of competition for the next five years, it would probably take us another five years to even get back to where we are now. So, in real terms, we would lose a generation of players. We’d lose role models for our kids as they go through the process of learning to play basketball. There’d be nowhere to go. It would be like a body with no head.”

Meanwhile, the FAI confirmed on Saturday afternoon that they have exceeded the Government gender balance requirement on their board with the appointment of Ursula Scully and Laura Finnegan O’Halloran, bringing the board up to 14 members.

Scully and Finnegan O’Halloran join Catherine Guy, Liz Joyce, Niamh O’Mahony and Maeve McMahon on the board, bringing it up to a 43 per cent female representation, above the Government requirement of 40 per cent to ensure grants of €4.35 million.

Scully returns to the board following a two-year spell from 2019 to 2021 and has been elected as a football director on the board. Scully is the secretary of the North Tipperary Schoolchildren’s Football League and a committee member with the Munster FA.

Finnegan O’Halloran is a lecturer in Sport Management and Talent Development in SETU Waterford and is known for her research into football development. She has been elected as an independent director.

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Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent