The notion of a ‘Celtic nations’ tournament has been knocked about for a while. In the absence of any English enthusiasm to resurrect the old Home International Championship, it has been left to Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Republic to push ahead with plans of their own.
Concrete detail is only now beginning to emerge. The Four Associations Tournament will first be played in Dublin in 2011. It will comprise a league format, with 2 games taking place in February and a further four in May.
The competition certainly sounds like a great idea in theory. Rather than national teams participating in three anaemic friendlies, full blooded derby matches will offer players and spectators a much more challenging, rewarding experience.
In recent years Northern Ireland fans have enjoyed travelling to matches in Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow. In addition Windsor Park has hosted two home matches versus Wales and a memorable victory against England.
Tickets for the Croke Park tourney are likely to be in great demand. On the last occasion the original Ireland team visited Dublin, we returned to Belfast with a win. Hopefully in three years time we can bring back three victories.