Education through The Euros

In less than two weeks, the European Championships will begin. For the first time ever, both Irish international teams will be represented in the tournament stage of an international football competition.

There is nothing quite like summer football. I grew up during the Republic’s halcyon age from 1988 to 1994, when fans were spoilt due to the unprecedented success of the team, a period in which Jack Charlton led the Republic to three tournaments, including two World Cups and one European Championships.

The Republic’s golden years followed quickly on the heels of Northern Ireland’s most successful phase, which included consecutive appearances at the World Cups of 1982 and 1986. Both teams experienced close misses in terms of European Championship qualification during their respective glory years (Northern Ireland ran West Germany close in 1984 while an undefeated Republic just missed out on qualifying in 1992 to England.)

As every teacher knows, children learn best when they feel engaged and captivated by learning themes. Taking advantage of stories that will feature in children’s lives through the media, their community or family is one way of helping motivate learners, develop knowledge and skills as well as an appreciation for the interconnected nature of learning.

Ahead of this year’s momentous tournament for Irish football fans, I produced a numeracy and literacy booklet (below) for Upper KS2 pupils (P6-P7) using as a backdrop the historic occasion of the two Irish teams’ successful qualification. The booklet was completed by pupils in north Belfast schools from each of the four education sectors (controlled, maintained, Irish medium and integrated) and culminated in a special North Belfast Euros tournament in Solitude earlier this month. Both north Belfast clubs, Cliftonville and Crusaders, were tremendously supportive of the initiative, providing coaches, players and (in the case of Cliftonville) the use of their pitch for the event. The Gibson Cup and the Irish League Cup were both on display for the day to the delight of the enthusiastic children.

Driving across Belfast, it is impossible to avoid noticing the numbers of children (and adults) who have purchased the replica kits for both Irish sides in anticipation of the tournament; school kids excitedly discuss the coming fixtures and adults make arrangements to ensure that evenings are cleared so that they may fully enjoy the pre- and post-match experiences (if not always the actual matches, as Republic fans like myself discovered four years ago.)

These are days that live long in the memory. The fact that we all have a team(s) in the race makes it all the more special this time around, so let’s hope the next six weeks bring great moments to recall in future years.

On another note, I have traditionally assumed responsibility for devising the workplace competition for World Cups and Euros (below), so if anyone is in need of a template, feel free to lift and run with it!




  • Ernekid

    I remember the 2002 World Cup well. I was in P7 and it was at the end of the school year. We had done the 11plus tests and we were all ready to move onto big school. Our P7 teacher allowed us to watch the Ireland group stage matches in class. I remember the Cameroon- Republic of Ireland match well. It was great fun

  • Thought Criminal

    Nothing like a bit of indoctrination to confuse the innocent minds into thinking they are from another country.

  • hgreen

    English, Maths and a little bit of geography all in one footy based booklet. Great idea.

  • Lee

    When I was a kid and we qualified for Spain and Mexico in World Cups I thought Northern Ireland qualified all the time.
    I was crushed when under Bryan Hamilton we missed out on Euro 96 by a home loss to Latvia. It bugged me for years.
    I thought we were never going to ever qualify for anything ever again, and have to make do with regular great results against big countries but fall well short of qualifying.
    I thought Northern Ireland’s illustrious history, and our cult status as a footballing off-the-wall wingnut, was all I’d have along those one-off wins.
    This splendid run has been a delight, a wonderful delight. To watch Northern Ireland waltz through games were I’m not waiting for them to throw one in has been astounding and other-worldly. I am loving the kids all getting excited just like me over 30 years ago I am so looking forward to heading out to France, trip of a lifetime, for which we’ve waited half a lifetime.

  • Declan Doyle

    So jealous !! Enjoy every moment 😉

  • Declan Doyle

    It is fantastic that we have both Irish teams qualified. It means as a fan I have a double chance of celebrating glory. I remember well when we beat Italy one nil. What I remember most is my late granny clutching the rosary as if she was burying my grandad all over again. Her prayers to our lady delivered. I have the beads so it’s me who’ll be doing the clutching this time round 🙂

  • USA

    Grow up.

  • USA

    How could not see the game 4 years ago?

  • Jollyraj

    One Irish team and one British team, if we’re going to be accurate about it. Great to see, though. If only you weren’t quite so obviously using any excuse to say ‘two irish teams’ quite so often.

  • Ernekid

    Did Wales and England not qualify then?

    I thought there was 2 Irish teams and 2 British teams as those teams are actually from the island of Great Britain

  • On the fence!

    Going to be tricky for some.

    “We’re not Brazil we’re the North of Ireland” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it somehow!

  • Gingray

    Tho your so called British team are represented by the Irish Football Association, and represent an area of the UK where less than 50% of people (as per the last census) list British as all or part of their identity 🙂

  • Neil

    As you enjoy a good troll by the looks of it, how about the 32 county Irish team and the 6 county Irish team?

  • So remind us what’s the name of the governing body which runs football in Northern Ireland? What’s the name of Northern Ireland’s domestic league?

  • colmh

    I don’t think Chris meant he couldn’t watch the games rather ROI’s performance was so abysmal that it wasn’t enjoyable to watch for ROI fans

  • Jollyraj

    Well that’d be 38 counties all in. But just where are these extra counties to come from? Does the acquisitive fringe of extreme Irish Republicanism now look to annexing not just NI but parts of Wales, too??

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed. Not much to rhyme with ‘statelet’ for the old chants 😉

  • Jollyraj

    Oh absolutely, they did. Scotland, sadly, not there but 3 of the 4 home nations did qualify.

    So, yes, I could say 3 British teams and one Irish team qualified (and sincerely I wish the best to all four), but the writer fairly ignored the other two British teams in his piece. You may take that up with him.

  • ted hagan


  • Jollyraj

    ” and represent an area of the UK where less than 50% of people (as per the last census) list British as all or part of their identity :-)”

    That’s modern day UK for you. Heck, one could say the same about parts of London, Bradford, Birmingham… so certainly un that sense we are indeed as British as Finchley.

  • Gingray

    And I am sure they have an agreement in place which allows for the population of that part of the UK to vote themselves out if the majority so wish. Oh wait. No. they do not.

    Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that has legislation on the statute books to allow it to leave.

    We are very very different, only the immature would argue otherwise.

  • Jollyraj

    As we have three UK teams in the mix, plenty for us in NI to root for, too.

  • Jollyraj

    “Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that has legislation on the statute books to allow it to leave.”

    In point of fact, Scotland can also vote themselves out if they wish to. But they held a referendum and decided to remain – and with oil prices as they are they are probably very glad they did. In NI there isn’t really the appetite to leave, either, so no in/out vote has been seriously called for.

    What does it tell you when the legal framework exists to allow us to leave the UK – but we choose to stay?

  • submariner

    Exactly the type of mentality that will ensure a constant stream of young Nationalist players declaring for the Republic team. Keep up the good work .NS

  • Gingray

    Nope, that was a one time event. Sorry, your facts are wrong. Again. But thats no problem.

    I am just finding it hilarious that a fan of the team that represents the Irish Football Association is not Irish. Irony is lost on Northern Irish Unionists like your good self 🙂

  • Jollyraj

    The Scots had a referendum. Nothing to stop them having another in the future.

    In NI we can have one, but nobody seems to want to.

    Nothing inaccurate there.

  • Jollyraj

    I don’t have a problem with young Nationalist players choosing to go and play for Ireland. Not much point playing for a country if you’d rather it didn’t exist.

  • Gingray

    Actually there is something to stop them – there is no provision for another referendum, it would need to be negotiated.

    By law however, the good people of Northern Ireland can choose to be British or Irish, its a wonderful situation to be in.

    Thankfully the Irish FA (a non Irish but British organisation according to you, lol) want to represent all the people of Northern Ireland, both Irish and British.

    Its just pathetic that some people refuse to acknowledge the reality that the Northern Ireland team belongs to all of us, and to say its only British feeds into the horrible nasty sectarianism that gave NI football fans such a bad name.

  • Reader

    Gingray: Actually there is something to stop them – there is no provision for another referendum, it would need to be negotiated.
    So, if they persuaded the Secretary of State for Scotland that it would be appropriate to have a referendum, for instance?
    A lot like here.

  • Gingray

    That’s because very very few people living here support those teams. Plenty are Ireland and Northern Ireland fans, although most of the media pretend use Ireland fans in the north just don’t exist.

  • Gingray

    Actually it’s not the Secretary of State for Scotland it’s the Prime Minister.

    I do take your point that in both instances the circumstances need to be there, but as the UK lacks a proper constitution, as it exists, Northern Ireland is the only part of it that by law can vote itself out.

    We can pretend otherwise, or accept we are very different to England Scotland and Wales where at least a uniform type of identity is present.

  • submariner

    I always thought
    Were not Brazil Were not a country has a nice ring to it.

  • Zorin001

    I know a few die-hard Unionists who hate to see England qualify for any tournament, but that’s more to do with the papers and the “EN-GER-LAND” mentality.

  • Giorria

    I think tesco missed a trick in not selling both packs of football stickers in areas where there is a significant amount of RoI support.

  • Tochais Siorai

    You’re right.

    I’m going to have to lie down for a while.