Soccer and Society in Dublin

A History of Association Football in Ireland’s Capital

Conor Curran

Hardback €31.50
Catalogue Price: €35.00
ISBN: 978-1-80151-039-4
February 2023. 366pp. Ills. Hardback

“Conor Curran’s Soccer and society in Dublin: a history of association football in Ireland’s capital is part of a burgeoning historiography of the world’s, and for that matter Ireland’s,most popular sport … Curran’s latest monograph treats of the beautiful game in the capital from many angles, and presents rich detail concerning the organisations, groups, and personalities involved ... there is much to admire … It will be a long time before someone writes any scholarly history of association football in Dublin without mentioning Conor Curran or this book ... it must always be remembered that it is not simply the hordes flocking to Lansdowne Road for big matches that defines Ireland’s capital as a football city. It is also the quotidian-level engagement of hundreds of thousands of Dubliners with the game in grounds, parks, pubs, and living rooms. Conor Curran has done much to document all this and, thus, enhance our understanding of modern Ireland and its culture.” Thomas Tormey, Irish Historical Studies, 2024

“It is a strange thing for a sport-obsessed nation that the history of Irish football pales in comparison to other sports. While a great deal of excellent work has been conducted on a national level, micro-studies are missing. This is particularly important in a country like Ireland where the spread of sport was incredibly uneven, especially during the nineteenth century. Conor Curran’s latest book, Soccer and Society in Dublin addresses this issue and, in doing so, provides a captivating account of association football’s evolution in Ireland’s capital city. As is characteristic of Curran’s approach to history, the book is meticulously researched, combining both strong archival work with a series of interviews with former players. The end result is a book which captures both the individual fascination one holds for sport, and the broader macro-level issues which sustained the game in Dublin. Curran unveils the relationship between soccer and the dynamic societal landscape of Dublin. Through an combination of thorough analysis, nuanced cultural discussions, and scrutinizing Dublin’s socio-political context, the book provides a comprehensive account of how soccer has become a mirror reflecting the city’s identity and aspirations over the decades. In many ways this is a story of how Dublin soccer, and the city itself, came to organize, legitimize and regulate itself across a century ... One of the central strengths of the book lies in its exploration of how soccer acted as a microcosm of societal shifts. The sport’s intersection with class divisions, sectarian tensions, and the ebb and flow of Irish nationalism is meticulously dissected. Curran employs a rich array of historical sources to illustrate how soccer not only reflected these societal divisions but at times, managed to bridge them, fostering unlikely alliances and solidarity in the process. This is both a story of sporting tension and conciliations as well as societal ones. The richness of this book lies in its ability to hold a tight grip on the socio-cultural importance of Dublin soccer while also reminding the reader, through fantastic interviews, of the experiences of playing during these decades ... With its masterful interplay of historical analysis and socio-cultural exploration, the book will appeal not only to sports enthusiasts but also to those intrigued by the interplay of sport and society.” Conor Heffernan, Soccer & Society (2023)


“Conor Curran’s Soccer and Society in Dublin: A History of Association Football in Ireland’s Capital is a welcome addition to an important and neglected subfield within football history scholarship. One of the major strengths of Curran’s book is the impressive sources from which he constructs his narrative. He accessed several archives including the sport’s governing body in Ireland and the Catholic Church, drew from football specialist newspapers and dozens of local and national newspapers, and conducted interviews with supporters and former players. The use of oral histories is particularly welcome as these complement the archival and newspaper sources. This makes the text so much stronger and enjoyable to read; the voices of important figures are inserted into the narrative in a meaningful manner ... Several excellent black-and-white photographs and a useful map are included in the book. The photographs are not only of teams but football stadiums, grounds, and matches across Dublin ... This is an excellent book and a model of how to approach the histories of cities and football, documenting the rich and varied episodes of Dublin’s football history. Curran makes useful comparisons with the cities of Belfast and Liverpool in particular and deals with issues of social class, migration, nationalism, and sectarianism in the text in a thoughtful manner ... Soccer and Society in Dublin is an excellent addition to the academic literature on football and cities and will remain the authoritative text on this topic for some time. It is a welcome addition to the small but growing literature on the historical development of football in cities around the world.” Chris Bolsmann, Sport in History, October 2023

“The exhaustive research on which this volume is based underpins its value as a guide to the rich history of Dublin soccer. There is gold-dust in the detail that that the author has unearthed.” Dilwyn Porter, Sport in Society, October 2023

Soccer and Society in Dublin: A History of Association Football in Ireland’s Capital illuminates our understanding of the development of sport in Dublin … this is a wonderfully comprehensive and balanced history of the game in the capital. It covers the development of the clubs and structures to nourish the game, the various competitions, and relations with other codes in the city and clubs overseas, particularly in Britain … An enduring feature of the social life of the city is the sight of youngsters kicking a football around the streets, almost invariably following the Association code. The important role played by that code in the life of the city’s largely working class is comprehensively told for the first time in this fine book. It is a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in the social life of the city." Dublin Historical Record, 2023, Vol. 76


"The latest publication by the prolific Conor Curran is a very welcome addition to the small number of monographs devoted to the scholarly study of soccer in Ireland. [He] charts the origins and development of soccer in Dublin from its tentative introduction to the capital in the late 1870s to its current hugely popular status, both as a participant sport and also a spectator one … Curran’s discussion also covers such important subjects as the growth of women’s soccer in Dublin (a short-lived affair in the 1920s, a more sustained and successful one from the 1970s onwards), the history of men’s soccer in the 1922 to 1945 period and then from 1946 to the present, the development of soccer in Dublin’s schools and higher education establishments, and the involvement of Dublin players in domestic and other football leagues … Curran’s book is a richly detailed study which should find a place on every Irish sports historian’s bookshelves.” Brian Griffin, Irish Studies Review

Soccer and Society in Dublin: A History of Association Football in Ireland’s Capital gives a comprehensive overview of over one hundred years of football history, social as well as political history in Dublin. This comprehensive overview of soccer history is contextualised by wider developments and events on the island of Ireland, in Britain as well as in continental Europe and North America. It also highlights the status soccer had throughout this period in relation to other sports and the tensions that arose between the sports administrators, most notably Gaelic football and rugby … The use of interviews with former players really strengthens this book as we get first hand insights into the challenges players had to overcome to play the sport they love at the highest level possible. There are invaluable insights into the development of soccer during the Troubles, which reviews Dublin based players who played in the Irish League. The personal interviews with former players give insights into how this conflict was navigated through sport … This book will be of interest to all sports historians interested in  Irish sports history, soccer history or general social history of the period covered. It would also be of interest to the international sports history community as there are a number of points throughout the book that benchmark the development of the sport in Dublin against other countries … It gives a comprehensive overview of over one hundred years of soccer history, social history as well as political history making it an invaluable resource for any future research related to Ireland as well as any future research into the wider development of the sport.” Helena Byrne, International Journal of the History of Sport

Conor Curran’s meticulously and exhaustively researched book … Along the way there are some fascinating findings … this is a story of success and achievement; of the world’s premier sport putting down deep roots in the Irish capital and – despite many reverses ‑ delighting its players and supporters for more than a century. It is a compelling story that could be repeated in every major city in every continent: the marvellous game of working class (and some middle class) people becoming a vital part of those cities’ social and communal lives ...  Soccer ‘anoraks’ like this writer are very much in Conor Curran’s debt for his detailed, intricate and fascinating account of the development of the game in Dublin over the past 135 years.Andy Pollak, Dublin Review of Books, June 2023

Conor Curran’s Soccer and Society in Dublin: A History of Association Football in Ireland’s Capital has all the prerequisites to become a compass that helps future researchers who want to tackle football in Dublin and in Ireland to keep their direction ... It could also be a building block in future comparative studies on the development of football in European capitals. Hans Bolling, (September 2023)

"This book will be an invaluable resource for anyone aiming to add to the history of sport in Ireland along these or other lines. Curran has trawled morning, evening and weekly newspapers, as well as sports publications, for details of matches, teams and attendances. He has scoured the archives of the Football Association of Ireland, the Leinster Football Association and the Irish Football Association (Belfast) for critical decisions. [...] The 35-page index of personal and club names will be well-thumbed. " Brian Trench, History IrelandMay/June 2023. ~


“Although billed as a social history of the ‘garrison game’ of soccer in Ireland, this book ranges far and wide on the sporting and social life of town and country over the last 150 years ... Although Curran charts the rise in popularity of English soccer clubs in Ireland and the exodus of topflight players to Britain, there is only one mention of Roy Keane. It’s the fascinating detail of the players, coaches and officials that’s the true strength of this book … it is a treasure trove of information for those wanting a full-blown history of “the beautiful game” in Dublin and a reference book of real importance”. Liam Collins, The Sunday Independent

"This rich and comprehensive book by Conor Curran is a welcome addition to a growing body of research into the role of sport in Irish society...vividly captures the 1950s heyday of domestic soccer...this exhaustive study explores how soccer wove its way into every strand of Dublin life" Dermot Bolger, The Irish Times, March 2023. 

"Soccer and Society in Dublin - A History of Association Football in Ireland's Capital by Conor Curran is an absolute gem for the lover of the 'beautiful game' and the family, local or social historian. It is the first full-length history of soccer in Dublin city and environs ... This book is very hard to put down, it is a very enjoyable and extremely interesting read - highly recommended and not just for the lifelong soccer fan." Ireland's Genealogical Gazette, March 2023

"This book takes an original and detailed look at how soccer developed in the capital of Ireland and draws widely on archival sources as well as player interviews. It will be of interest to lovers of sport as well as those who are keen to learn more about the history of relations between Ireland and Britain before and after partition." Ireland of the Welcomes, March/April 2023.

“Building on his previous regional case studies concerning the development of sport in county Donegal, Conor Curran has now produced an Irish urban history of a single sport, concerning soccer in Dublin, comparable to that undertaken by Gary James in relation to Manchester, for example … The author has made an important contribution to the history of women’s football in Ireland, charting its development in Dublin prior to and during the 1920s, noting how links to Great Britain also impeded its development following the (English) Football Association’s infamous ban on women’s football in 1921. Curran outlines the interactions between soccer in Dublin and that in Britain occurring at all levels in the men’s game—in matches, the transfer of players, the movement of match officials and the appointment of British coaches by Dublin senior clubs ... Curran describes fascinating but ultimately unsuccessful attempts by the Catholic Church to infiltrate the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) … perhaps this book’s most important contribution to the historiography is Curran’s descriptions of relationship between work, migration and soccer in the city. It was typical that soccer players found themselves in Dublin to earn a living, whether that be in the military or in medicine, for example, and played soccer alongside such work commitments … Curran’s excellent account of Dublin players’ exploits in the Irish League in Northern Ireland has forged an important opening to documenting the relationship between sport and society during the period of the Troubles there (c.1969–98)”. Conor Murray, Studia Hibernica 49 (2023)