As the most successful club in the Irish League, Linfield FC are not short of enemies. Additionally, their close association with political Loyalism and Unionism in Northern Ireland throughout their existence has made them the object of hatred that extends beyond the pitch.
Playing their games at Windsor Park – where the Northern Irish national team also plays their home fixtures – Linfield have won 52 Irish League titles, more than twice the total of any of their competitors. A tumultuous history which began with their rivalry with Belfast Celtic, who would go on to dissolve as a football club, to their stance on the signing of Catholic players, Linfield FC have never been short of controversy.
Linfield manager Eric Bowyer was quoted as saying that he could not envision Linfield signing a Catholic player, because it would be in the interests of the club or the player. Later, he clarified ‘a part of me wanted this to open up because I wanted to sign Catholic players…I didn’t see any sense in cutting half the population off.’ Father McManus, an American priest saw things differently, and organised a campaign to pressure sponsors of Linfield and the Northern Irish national team to cut their financial ties.
Linfield FC were perhaps one of the most prominent clubs throughout the Troubles and we chart their history of success, throughout the sectarian problems within the county, to fielding their first ever Catholic playing captain.
Linfield FC, the team that triumphed.
Quotes in the latter half of this video are sourced from the work of Daniel Brown, author of ‘Linfield’s “Hawk of Peace”: pre-Ceasefires Reconciliation in Irish League football’ Soccer and Society (2017) and a book, Every Other Saturday: Linfield, the Irish League, and the Changing World of European Football 1986-2016, available from the Linfield club shop and the official Linfield FC website.
Belfast Celtic were formed in 1891. They were dissolved in 1949. We look at the history behind the club.2
Derry City began life in the Irish league, but now find themselves in the League of Ireland.3
Cliftonville is Ireland's oldest club, after a troubled history, they decided to stay in the Irish league.4
Linfield FC are the most successful club in Irish league history, but they are not without enemies.5
Author of Gunshots & Goalposts Ben Roberts joins Joe to discuss the impact of the troubles on football.