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The League of Ireland ( ) is the primary national football league of Irelandmarker. Founded in 1921 as one division of 8 clubs, it has expanded over time in to a two-tiered league of 22 clubs, but presently contains 20, as a result of the financial instability of two former members. The league is currently split into the League of Ireland Premier Division and the League of Ireland First Division. The league was governed by its members, the clubs, from its foundation to 2006, when it entered in to a five year merger with the Football Association of Ireland.

The league included one club from Northern Irelandmarker, Derry City. Derry City formerly played in the Irish Football League, but voluntarily left that league following the 1972–73 season as a result of safety and security concerns. Derry City joined the League of Ireland at the second level in 1985, after a special dispensation from the Irish Football Association (IFA) and UEFA. They won promotion in 1987, and remained in the top division of the League of Ireland until 2009, when they were expelled from the league for mismanagement.

The League of Ireland is currently ranked 29th of the 53 national leagues under UEFA jurisdiction. The league's most successful club is Shamrock Rovers, with 15 League of Ireland titles won. They are one of three clubs in Irelandmarker, with Bohemians and Shelbourne, to sport a golden star above their crest in recognition of winning ten titles. The latter two are the only clubs with unbroken membership of the league since its inception, with Bohemians being the only club to spend that entire period in the top division.


The League of Ireland was established as the Free State League in 1921, a single division consisting of eight teams from Dublinmarker. St James's Gate were the inaugural winners of the league and the FAI Cup. The league expanded numerically and geographically during its first decade of existence but was dominated by Dublin's three main clubs, Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians and Shelbourne. Dundalk became the first club from outside of the capital to win the league, in 1932–33. The 1930s saw another championship victory for a provincial side, with Sligo Rovers claiming their first league title in 1936–37, while Shamrock Rovers claimed a further three during the decade. The League of Ireland was dominated by Cork United during the 1940s. The club won five league titles between 1941 and 1946, including three in succession, but resigned from the league in 1948. The following decade was marked by the emergence of St Patrick's Athletic and the reemergence of Shamrock Rovers. The former succeeded in winning the title at the first attempt, in 1951–52, and claimed a further two in the middle of the decade. The Coad's Colts earned Shamrock Rovers the league title for the first time in fifteen years, in 1953–54, and won two more during the latter half of the decade.

Drumcondra and Dundalk claimed two League of Ireland titles each during the 1960s but Waterford secured their status as the team of the decade with four league titles, including three in succession between 1967 and 1970. Six clubs claimed the League of Ireland title during the 1970s with Waterford, Bohemians and Dundalk winning two titles each. Athlone Town won their two league titles at the start of the 1980s but the decade was marked by the four successive league titles won by Shamrock Rovers' Four in a row side. That team broke up following the sale of Glenmalure Parkmarker in 1987 and Dundalk and Derry City stepped in to claim the remaining titles of the decade with Derry winning the Treble in 1989, four years after entering the League of Ireland. The 1990s saw the re-emergence of St Patrick's Athletic, as the club secured 4 league championships during the decade, following years of obscurity. The turn of the millennium was marked by the first of five titles in seven years for Shelbourne, a first title in 23 years for Bohemians and the league's switch to a Summer Soccer (MarchNovember) schedule. Cork City denied Shels' a third league title in a row when they claimed their 2nd championship in 2005, defeating fellow challengers Derry City in a last game decider at Turners Crossmarker. The 2nd half of the decade saw the beginning of the 5 year merger with the FAI and the financial collapse of a number of league winning clubs, due to overspending and mismanagement. Shelbourne were demoted to the First Division following their title win in 2006, Drogheda United went in to examinership in 2008, having won the League of Ireland the previous year, while Cork City also entered in to examinership in the same year with debts of up to €800,000. Derry City were thrown out of the League of Ireland at the end of the 2009 season for producing false documents regarding player contracts and thus, breaking the League's participation agreement.


Club Winners Runners-up Championship seasons
Shamrock Rovers
1922–23, 1924–25, 1926–27, 1931–32, 1937–38, 1938–39, 1953–54, 1956–57, 1958–59,

1963–64, 1983–84, 1984–85, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1993–94
1925–26, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1943–44, 1946–47, 1952–53, 1961–62, 1991–92, 1999–2000, 2001–02, 2003, 2004, 2006
1923–24, 1927–28, 1929–30, 1933–34, 1935–36, 1974–75, 1977–78, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2008, 2009
1932–33, 1962–63, 1966–67, 1975–76, 1978–79, 1981–82, 1987–88, 1990–91, 1994–95
St Patrick's Athletic
1951–52, 1954–55, 1955–56, 1989–90, 1995–96, 1997–98, 1998–99
Cork United/Cork Athletic
1940–41, 1941–42, 1942–43, 1944–45, 1945–46, 1949–50, 1950–51
1965–66, 1967–68, 1968–69, 1969–70, 1971–72, 1972–73
1947–48, 1948–49, 1957–58, 1960–61, 1964–65
Athlone Town
1980–81, 1982–83
Cork City
1992–93, 2005
Derry City
1988–89, 1996–97
1959–60, 1979–80
Sligo Rovers
1936–37, 1976–77
St James's Gate
1921–22, 1939–40
Drogheda United
Cork Celtic
Cork Hibernians


The format of the league changed regularly during the first three decades of its existence. The number of teams competing in it varied from eight to twelve, although a double round robin system remained throughout. The 1950s marked the beginning of a period of consistency, as the league persisted with a 12 team format from 1951–52 to 1961–62. Qualification positions for European competitions were introduced during the period. The 12 teamed/2 rounded format was used for most of the 1960s, until 1969–70, when the league was expanded to 14 clubs. This format remained until 1977–78, when an additional 2 clubs were elected to the league. The format returned in 1982–83, following 5 years of the 16 team league, but the 1980s were marked by the introduction of a second tier to the league. The League of Ireland First Division was founded in 1985, containing 10 of the 22 clubs competing in the league. A system of promotion and relegation was introduced for the first time in the league, replacing the previous method of election.

A third round of fixtures was added to both divisions for the 1987–88 season, replacing the double round robin system. The points system of the league was changed in 1993–94, with 3 points awarded for a win. The previous method of 2 points for a win had existed since the league's inception, excluding two seasons of experimental points systems in the early 1980s. The format remained until 2002–03, when the season was deliberately shortened to ease the transition to "Summer Soccer". The Premier Division was cut to 10 teams while the First Division played only 2 rounds of fixtures. The first season of summer soccer saw the introduction of a fourth round of fixtures to the 10 team Premier Division, while the 12 teams in the First Division played each other on 3 occasions. These formats and numbers were reversed for 4 years, from 2005 to 2009, with the Premier Division currently experimenting again with a 10 teamed/4 rounded format.

Promotion and relegation

Currently, the team that finishes bottom of the Premier Division is automatically relegated to the First Division. Likewise, the team that finishes top of the First Division is automatically promoted to the Premier Division. The teams placed 8th and 9th in the Premier Division face off, with the loser playing the winner of a similar encounter between the teams placed 2nd and 3rd in the First Division, in a two legged play-off. The winner of this match takes their place in the Premier Division the next year. The last placed team in the First Division can potentially play a promotion/relegation play-off against an A Championship side, depending on the final placings in that league.

European qualification

The top team in the Premier Division qualifies for the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round for champions. The second-placed team qualifies for the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round. The third placed-team qualifies for the first qualifying round. They, similarly, must go through two and three two-legged knockout ties respectively in order to enter the Second Round group phase of that competition. There is another UEFA Europa League first qualifying round slot reserved for the winners of the domestic FAI Cup. If it were to happen that a cup-winner has already qualified for the UEFA Europa League via the league, the cup-win qualification will take prominence and the league-place qualification will be transferred to the next team who finished below them in the league. However, if the case is that the cup-winner has already won the league, that team will take a place in the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds, by way of its league-win, and the losing team in the FAI Cup final will take the UEFA Europa League spot on offer from that competition.

UEFA coefficient

The League of Ireland's UEFA coefficient accumulates to a total value of 9.499 as of the 2008-2010 European season.

Current national league UEFA ranking

In nine years, Ireland's place on the coefficent table has risen 13 places, the highest of any country.

* Full list

Background information

Ireland's national league coefficient has improved in recent years, but at a cost. The League of Ireland's move to Summer Soccer at the beginning of the 2003 season and the introduction of full-time professional football by a number of clubs, has aided this progress. League of Ireland clubs have consistently overcome sides from the Swedish league in recent years. Cork City defeated Djurgårdens IF in 2005, having earlier beaten Malmo FF 4-1 on aggregate in 2004, while Derry City beat former UEFA Cup winners, IFK Göteborg, 2-0 on aggregate in 2006. Cork City are currently in an extended period of financial trouble while Derry City have been thrown out of the league for producing false documents regarding contracts, in an effort to hide their financial position.

League of Ireland clubs

Premier Division

Team Base Manager Stadium Capacity Founded
Bohemians Dublinmarker Pat Fenlon Dalymount Parkmarker 7,955 1890
Cork City Corkmarker Paul Doolin Turners Crossmarker 7,485 1984
Drogheda United Droghedamarker, Co. Louth Alan Mathews United Parkmarker 2,000 1975
Dundalk Dundalkmarker, Co. Louth Seán Connor Oriel Park 6,000 1903
Galway United Galwaymarker Ian Foster Terryland Parkmarker 5,000 1937
Shamrock Rovers Dublinmarker Michael O'Neill Tallaght Stadiummarker 5,700 1901
Sligo Rovers Sligomarker Paul Cook The Showgroundsmarker 5,500 1928
Sporting Fingal Fingal Liam Buckley Morton Stadiummarker 8,800 2007
St. Patrick's Athletic Dublinmarker Pete Mahon Richmond Parkmarker 5,340 1929
University College Dublin Dublinmarker Martin Russell UCD Bowlmarker 3,000 1895

First Division

Team Base Manager Stadium Capacity Founded
Athlone Town Athlonemarker, Co.marker Westmeathmarker Brendan Place Lissywoolen Stadium 5,000 1887
Bray Wanderers Braymarker, Co.marker Wicklowmarker Eddie Gormley Carlisle Groundsmarker 3,250 1942
Finn Harps Ballybofeymarker, Co.marker Donegalmarker James Gallagher Finn Park 7,500 1954
Limerick Limerickmarker Pat Scully Jackman Park 3,000 1937
Longford Town Longfordmarker Gareth Cronin Flancare Park 6,850 1924
Mervue United Galwaymarker Johnny Glynn Terryland Parkmarker 6,500 1960
Monaghan United Monaghanmarker Mick Cooke Century Homes Park 3,000 1979
Shelbourne Dublinmarker Dermot Keely Tolka Parkmarker 9,680 1895
Waterford United Waterfordmarker Stephen Henderson Waterford Regional Sports Centremarker 3,100 1930
Wexford Youths Crossabegmarker, Co.marker Wexfordmarker Mick Wallace Ferrycarraig Park 2,500 2007

Television rights

The television rights for the League of Ireland are negotiated by the FAI with the individual broadcasters, RTÉmarker and TG4. RTÉ hold the rights to broadcast a weekly highlights programme, Monday Night Soccer, as well as the rights to live games in the league and FAI Cup, towards the conclusion of the season. The deal, which is part of the broadcaster's wider contract with the FAI for the coverage of Irish football, runs until 2013. TG4 hold the rights to show selected live games in both competitions.

League of Ireland clubs are obliged to accept and cooperate with the television rights, negotiated by the FAI, under the terms of the league's participation agreement. This leaves the dates and times of certain fixtures in the hands of the television companies and the FAI. The 10 clubs competing in the Premier Division received an equal share payment of €20,000 during the 2009 season, while an additional €35,000 was set aside for clubs with six or more fixtures selected for live television broadcast, or four or more live television fixtures held on nights other than Friday.


The League of Ireland was sponsored by Irish telecommunications company, Eircom, until 2008 but the company withdrew funding for the 2009 season. The League of Ireland had been previously sponsored during the early 1990s by Bord Gáis. As of 2009, the league has no "title sponsor", but has a number of secondary sponsors. On 22 January 2009, the FAI announced radio station Newstalk as the first sponsor. The second sponsor was unveiled as the Irish Daily Star and the third sponsor was announced as Eircom. On 21 March 2009, Electronic Arts was announced as a fourth sponsor and title sponsor of the competition's sister tournament, the League of Ireland Cup.


Premier Division winners

League of Ireland Premier Division Champions

First Division winners

League of Ireland First Division Champions

See also


External links

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