If you have ever been to Ireland you will know that the red shirts of Liverpool are a common sight on the streets of the Emerald Isle.
A very common site.
I’ve been to Ireland a few times and, being a football fan, it was one of the first things I picked up on (along with the abundance of Guinness available).
So why do Irish people support Liverpool?
We take a closer look…
Why Do Irish People Support Liverpool?
A strong bond has developed between Irish people and Liverpool as it was the place hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women fled to in the mid-19th century after the Potato Famine of 1849. The city has very strong ties with Ireland and many Irish players were instrumental in some of Liverpool FC’s greatest successes.
Which Football Team Do Most Irish People Support? The Statistics.
There is no point in making such a sweeping statement about the popularity of Liverpool FC in Ireland without backing it up.
So I am not basing this purely on my anecdotal evidence of having been over to Ireland four or five times.
There are some hard facts behind it!
Back in 2019 Cork University Press carried out an extensive survey on the football-supporting habits of the Irish population for a book they were putting together called An Atlas of Irish Sport.
They interviewed over 1,000 Irish adults in the process, asking them who they supported (both in Ireland and overseas).
The results were clear-cut with two teams coming up head and shoulders above everyone else.
Those teams were Manchester United and Liverpool.
In total 33% of those survey said they supported Manchester United and 29% said they supported Liverpool.
A distant third on the list was Celtic with 14%, and the top Irish team was Cork City with 4%.
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Their results were very similar, with one main difference.
According to their research, Liverpool are the most popular team in Ireland, with 443,500 fans in the country compared to 441,000 for United.
We have already looked at why the Irish love Manchester United, but why are Liverpool almost, if not more popular in Ireland?
Reason #1: Liverpool is So Close to Ireland
I think it is fair to say that one main factor accounts for both Liverpool and Manchester United’s popularity in Ireland – geography.
It really is a short hop from Dublin to Liverpool, whether that be by ferry or plane.
Back in the mid-19th century, many Irish people left their own country to look for work elsewhere due to the Potato Famine in 1849.
Of course, because Liverpool was so close, it was one of the main destinations they set off for.
In fact it was estimated that around 2 million Irish citizens fled to the city within a decade of the famine, making up around 40% of the population.
Many stayed and put down roots in Liverpool that remain to this very day.
Support has been passed down through family lines, and taken back to Ireland when people have moved home.
And nowadays if you are Irish and want to watch a Premier League game, you can make it to Liverpool and back fairly easily from Dublin.
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Reason #2: The City is a Home From Home
As a result of this influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th century, Liverpool to this day remains a very Irish-centric city.
For instance, at the end of October each year the Liverpool Irish Festival takes place.
This ten-day festival celebrates the Irish heritage in the city through a variety of events based around art, music, poetry, sport and more.
In 2021 the Liverpool Echo wrote a piece on Liverpool’s place as “Ireland’s second capital“.
They interviewed Donna Scully who had moved to the city in the 1980s and lived there ever since.
She probably sums up the strong connection between Liverpool and Ireland best of all:
“I just felt right at home here – I sometimes felt I had to be restrained in London but that was never the case here. The humour, the sarcasm – it was like going home without going home.”
I think there is a real understanding in Liverpool of what it means to be Irish and what the Irish people have been through – there is a lot of solidarity.“
“Liverpool is really proud of its Irish culture and celebrates it and as an Irish person living here, I couldn’t be more welcome.”
Reason #3: Success!
The previously mentioned survey by Adaptive & Co revealed that Liverpool’s support is highest across the 46 to 60-year-old age group, peaking in those between 46 and 50 years old.
That age group would have been in their early teens back in the 1980s when Liverpool were dominant both domestically and overseas.
There is no doubt the club’s success has been a factor in the high levels of support they have received from Ireland.
After all, whilst both Everton and Manchester City are comparatively well supported in Ireland they don’t have anywhere near the same fanbase as their more successful neighbours.
Reason #4: Irish Players
Prominent in Liverpool’s success in the 1980s were two Irish players.
Both Mark Lawrenson and Ronnie Whelan were vital parts of the team in that period. Michael Robinson also featured regularly.
Before that, at the end of the 1970s, Steve Heighway was another important Irishman at the club, playing in the club’s European Cup victories in 1977 and 1978.
Later in the 1980s Ray Houghton, John Aldridge, Jim Beglin and Steve Staunton all picked up multiple League championship medals.
In 2005, Limerick-born Steve Finnan was part of the Miracle of Istanbul team that came from 3-0 down against AC Milan to win the European Cup Final.
In fact, the club’s connection with Ireland goes right back to 1906 when an Irish emigrant, John McKenna, became Liverpool’s Chairman. Then in 1912, he would become Liverpool’s first-ever manager.
Such was his importance in the history of the club that author Keith Falkiner, who penned a book called Emerald Anfield charting the link between Ireland and Liverpool FC, said:
“The course of history has proven John McKenna to be one of the most powerful and successful men at Liverpool Football Club – the third most important figure, in my opinion, after only Bill Shankly and the clubs founder John Houlding.”
There is no doubt that Liverpool enjoys huge support in Ireland and that is mainly down to the city’s proximity to Ireland.
With Liverpool just a short ferry ride away, it was the city that hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women fled to in the mid-19th century.
That created an unbreakable bond that has endured to this very day.
Liverpool has been nicknamed the second capital of Ireland and Irish players have been instrumental in some of the club’s greatest successes over the years.