The Irish rugby union team is the one national team sport on the island that draws widespread support in both “Irelands” from both nationalist and unionist communities.
With Ireland uniquely representing players from different sovereign territories, there have seen some controversy over the issue of flags and anthems.
When games were played alternately in Belfast and Dublin, the British national anthem “God Save the Queen” was played for matches in Belfast and the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland “AmhrÃ¡n na bhFiann” was played for matches in Dublin – uniquely for Ireland in the international rugby community no anthem was played at away games!
Recently “Ireland’s Call”, the rugby anthem was composed to be used for Irish team in away games. This has prompted some players and supporters from the Republic to complain that AmhrÃ¡n na bhFiann should be played. At games played in Dublin “Ireland’s Call” is always used alongside “AmhrÃ¡n na bhFiann”, this use of “AmhrÃ¡n na bhFiann” has caused similar complaints from players and supporters from Northern Ireland.
The Irish tricolour, the official flag of the Republic of Ireland is only flown when playing in the Republic and even then not as being representative of the team. A flag with symbols representing the four provinces of Ireland, is flown alongside the Irish tricolour in Dublin, and is used exclusively when playing elsewhere.
At some matches, the standard of the island’s rugby union governing body, the Irish Rugby Football Union, is displayed on the field during pre-match ceremonies.
Many supporters in the crowd at Ireland matches wave the tricolour of the Republic of Ireland, though part of Ireland is not in the Republic of Ireland. Many supporters in the crowd at Ulster games (one of the four professional Irish teams) wave Northern Ireland flags though part of Ulster is in the Republic of Ireland.