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RTE Television

Green Is The Colour

Over the last 130 years Irish football has transformed, developed, grown and prospered in line with our own national identity, from 19th century garrison game to 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Presented by Darragh Maloney, this four-part documentary series examines the history of Irish football and the national soccer team, featuring the personal accounts of a rich host of footballers, managers, pundits, historians, and journalists.

Who knew that an Irishman invented the penalty kick, or that Ireland were the first foreign team to beat England on their home soil? Who remembers the forgotten fact that a former Irish player managed Barcelona and is credited with saving the club? Few cultural institutions have captured the national imagination quite like the national soccer team. Green Is The Colour is a sporting story, a political history and a social narrative but most importantly, a human story, told by the people who lived it.

The series takes us right back to the invention of the game of Association Football and its arrival in Ireland, competing with various other sports that represented the diverse strands of Irish society. The ideological differences between administrators in the North and South lead to an acrimonious split, after which the newly formed FAI were forced to fight for recognition and the right to play international matches around the globe, offering legitimacy to the state and its people. Despite the gradual modernisation of the country, a golden era in the League of Ireland and the emergence of great players such as Jackie Carey, Con Martin, and John Giles, the following decades were strewn with heartbreak and near-misses as Ireland struggled to cast off its inferiority complex.

All the progress would eventually culminate in the unprecedented success of The Charlton Years as Ireland strode out confidently onto the world stage and never looked back, changing the course of Irish soccer forever. By the time expectancy and controversy on the playing field. Nowhere was this more crystalised than in the Saipan scandal that would divide the nation. Just as our fortunes on the playing field began to fade, so too did the economic miracle which we had all assumed would last forever. Once again, the national side has stepped up to give the country a lift and as we face into Euro 2012, the time has come to tell this rich story.

Episode 1: 1863 - 1929

From the invention of the game by a group of English public school men who put rules and structure on a chaotic and poorly defined pastime, to the establishment of the Irish Football Association, the gaining of a foothold in the public consciousness in Ireland and the eventual acrimonious split between North and South. The episode concludes with the successful fight for FIFA recognition for the new Association which would lead to their first professional international match against Italy.

Episode 2: 1930 to 1980

After independence, the FAI finds itself with a mountain to climb to earn the right to call the national team Ireland, to hold autonomy over the 26 counties, to end the practice of dual representation and to take their place on the world stage as a free, independent and great footballing nation, by qualifying for a major tournament. The struggle would be marked by the uneasy relationship between politics and sport. The pain and heartbreak of failing to qualify was somewhat eased by a booming domestic league which entered a golden era but would eventually see a decline as eyes turned towards the English game.

Episode 3: 1980 - 1996

After some bad luck under Eoin Hand, Jack Charlton finally brings success and presides over a period of huge change in Irish society. The highs of Euro 88 and Italia 90, the weight of expectation in the aftermath, the disappointment of going undefeated but still not qualifying for Euro 92. The joy of Giants Stadium in 94, coupled with the disappointment of not reaching our potential against the Dutch. The downward spiral of the Euro 96 campaign, which finally convinces Jack Charlton to move on and the sense that Ireland and Irish football were changed forever.

Episode 4: 1996 to Present

A period defined by scandals that highlight the constant need to modernise and change with the times. After a series of near misses as Ireland fail to win playoffs against Belgium and Turkey, Ireland finally qualify for the World Cup in Japan and Korea. The Saipan scandal that ensues, divides a nation and brings about the Genesis Report which forces the FAI to change for the 21st century. The disappointment of the Kerr years only gets worse with the calamity of the Staunton years and after the momentous moments of 'the garrison game' being played in Croke Park, Giovanni Trapattoni is brought in to revive the fortunes of the side and give the country a lift after the injustice of Thierry Henry's handball in 2009, allowing us to look forward to a glorious summer in Poland.

Green Is The Colour
  • RTÉ Two, Wednesday, 10.25pm