Ireland's Call

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"Ireland's Call" is a song used in place of a national anthem by some sports competitors representing the island of Ireland, originally and most notably the men's rugby union team. It was commissioned by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) for the 1995 World Cup, because many of the IRFU's members are Ulster unionists from Northern Ireland who would regard the use of the anthem of the Republic of Ireland ("Amhrán na bhFiann", "The Soldier's Song") as inappropriate, as it is the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland.[1][2]

While some all-island sports governing bodies use "Amhrán na bhFiann" in international competition (for example, the Golfing Union of Ireland[3] and Irish Athletic Boxing Association[4]) others do not, and many have followed the IRFU in adopting "Ireland's Call", including the Hockey Ireland,[5] Irish Cricket Union,[6] rugby league team,[5][7] korfball team,[8] and A1 Grand Prix team.[5][dubious ] The song has attracted some opposition, both on musical grounds and from Irish nationalists who would prefer "Amhrán na bhFiann".[9][10] Journalist Malachy Clerkin wrote on its 20th anniversary, "It has run the gamut with a sceptical and often hostile public, from deep loathing to grudging acceptance to growing pockets of reasonably throated support."[5]

Rugby history[edit]

From the Partition of Ireland until the 1930s, no flag or anthem was used at IRFU internationals. After objections from clubs in the then Irish Free State, a compromise was agreed to use an IRFU flag, with "Amhrán na bhFiann" at matches in the Free State, "God Save the Queen" at those in Northern Ireland, and no anthem at away matches.[11][12][13] Ulster unionist players are not expected to sing "Amhrán na bhFiann".[14] There were no senior internationals in Northern Ireland from 1954 to 2007.[15][11] Des Fitzgerald declined to play a 1982 B international in Belfast as "God Save the Queen" would be played.[16] Before a 1954 Five Nations match in Ravenhill, Belfast, players from the Republic refused to take the field until after "God Save the Queen" had finished. Cahir Healy negotiated an compromise whereby the Royal Salute was played instead of the full anthem, and promised that future internationals would be played in Dublin. The incident was hushed up. Playing all matches at Lansdowne Road suited the IRFU in any case, since gate receipts would be larger than at Ravenhill.[17][11][12][18]

Unionist opposition to "Amhrán na bhFiann" was strengthened on 27 April 1987, when an IRA roadside bomb, detonated to kill judge Maurice Gibson, also damaged a car carrying three of the senior squad from Belfast to Dublin for training.[13] David Irwin and Philip Rainey recovered but Nigel Carr's rugby career was ended by his injuries.[19] The next month, at the inaugural Rugby World Cup, captain Donal Lenihan objected that all other teams would have an anthem. At the last minute before the side's opening match in Athletic Park, Wellington, a James Last cassette recording of "The Rose of Tralee" was borrowed from Phil Orr; the music and poor recording quality attracted much criticism and no anthem was played for later matches.[20] At the 1991 World Cup, there was no anthem away to Scotland, Ireland's only game outside Dublin.[21]

For the 1995 World Cup in South Africa, the IRFU decided to commission a song from Phil Coulter.[22][23] His composition, "Ireland's Call", has since been played alongside "Amhrán na bhFiann" at matches within the Republic, and on its own elsewhere.[23] Ireland's match against England at Croke Park in the 2007 Six Nations Championship was of historic significance because of the Rule 42 ban and the memory of Bloody Sunday 1920; The Irish Times commented, '"Amhrán na bhFiann" and "Ireland's Call" were belted out with such hair-raising intensity that men and women were crying as they sang'.[24] Prior to the 2007 resumption of internationals at Ravenhill Stadium, Belfast, the IRFU decided that only "Ireland's Call" would be played, not "God Save the Queen", prompting complaints from some unionists that this did not match the playing of "Amhrán na bhFiann" in Dublin.[15][25]

Other sports[edit]

Other all-island teams have adopted "Ireland's Call" for similar reasons to the IRFU's. The men's and women's hockey teams adopted it in 2000, having previously used the "Londonderry Air",[5] except that in the 2016 Olympic tournament, the Olympic Council of Ireland standard "Amhrán na bhFiann" was used.[26] At the 2000 Rugby League World Cup, the Ireland team had "Amhrán na bhFiann" at a match in England,[27] but no anthem at a match in Belfast.[28] In the years before 2008 it "used neutral symbols and anthems such as 'Ireland's Call'".[28] Rugby League Ireland adopted "Amhrán na bhFiann" for the 2008 World Cup, explaining "'The Soldier's Song' has always been played at amateur level and it was a unanimous decision to extend this policy to the professional game."[29] By the 2017 World Cup it had reverted to "Ireland's Call".[7] The Irish Waterski and Wakeboard Federation adopted "Ireland's Call" on a one-off basis for the 2016 EA Wakeboard Championships, because they were in Coleraine in "very close proximity to a Loyalist Estate".[30] The National Coarse Fishing Federation of Ireland's policy document states that it 'is a 32 county body and as such the anthem will be "Ireland’s Call" except in circumstances where this may cause discomfort or embarrassment. On such occasions the only permitted deviation allowed is "Amhran na Bhfiann".'[31]


The song was written by Phil Coulter in 1995. He said he composed it because he loved hearing a combination of Irish accents singing together.[32]

It was first broadcast simultaneously on the Kelly show in Northern Ireland and The Late Late Show in the Republic, sung by Andrew Strong accompanied by the Portadown Male Voice Choir.


At most games today, only the first verse is sung, followed by the chorus in the same key. The chorus is then repeated in a higher key; at the end, the last line is repeated. Several Irish-language translations have been made for Gaelscoil pupils, with the title "Glaoch na hÉireann".[33]

Come the day and come the hour,
Come the power and the glory!
We have come to answer our country's call,
From the four proud provinces of Ireland
Ireland, Ireland,
Together standing tall!
Shoulder to shoulder,
We'll answer Ireland's call!
From the mighty Glens of Antrim,
From the rugged hills of Galway!
From the walls of Limerick, and Dublin Bay,
From the four proud provinces of Ireland!
Ireland, Ireland,
Together standing tall!
Shoulder to shoulder,
We'll answer Ireland's call!
Hearts of steel and heads unbowing,
Vowing never to be broken!
We will fight, until we can fight no more,
From the four proud provinces of Ireland!
Ireland, Ireland,
Together standing tall!
Shoulder to shoulder,
We'll answer Ireland's call!
Ireland, Ireland,
Together standing tall!
Shoulder to shoulder,
We'll answer Ireland's call!
We'll answer Ireland's call!

Coulter subsequently rewrote the lyrics to be sung in the Celtic Thunder singing tour, when he collaborated with Sharon Browne, the original producer of Celtic Woman. The rewritten lyrics have a somewhat more martial theme, with lines like "meet our destiny with glory" and "Till our final requiem is spoken".[34][35]



  • Lenihan, Donal (2016-09-22). Donal Lenihan: My Life in Rugby. Transworld. ISBN 9781473540019. Retrieved 7 December 2017.


  1. ^ John Sugden and Scott Harvie (1995). "Sport and Community Relations in Northern Ireland 3.2 Flags and anthems". Retrieved 26 May 2008.
  2. ^ Fanning, Bryan (2016). Irish Adventures in Nation-Building. Oxford University Press. p. 181. ISBN 9781784993221. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  3. ^ Gilleece, Dermot (29 May 2016). "Smoothing the thorny issue of national identity". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 February 2018. [Northern Ireland] golfer, Garth McGimpsey, ... said ... " ... Through 226 senior international matches, I was proud to be part of winning Irish teams and never had a problem in standing for the Irish national anthem."
  4. ^ "Black Sea Gold For Molloy". Irish Athletic Boxing Association. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2018. Amhran na bhFiann has received many an airing at the Black Sea holiday resort in international competition in recent years, and Irish team manager Gerry O'Mahony was thrilled to hear the Irish national anthem again today.; "Road To Rio; Sponsorship Opportunity" (PDF). Irish Athletic Boxing Association. p. 3. Retrieved 8 February 2018. 32 county sport
  5. ^ a b c d e Clerkin, Malachy (31 January 2015). "Ireland's Call: standing tall for 20 years". The Irish Times. Retrieved 6 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Ireland v Australia WT20". Cricket Ireland. 19 September 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2018. Ireland at the national anthem; Ireland's Call rings out across the Premadasa
  7. ^ a b "Live: Ireland vs Papua New Guinea". Rugby League Ireland. 4 November 2017. Retrieved 8 February 2018. We are minutes away from kick off as Ireland’s call bells out at the National Football [Stadium]
  8. ^ International Korfball Federation (5 June 2016). "IKF European Korfball Championship Round 1 West : France — Ireland". ikfchannel. Youtube. Event occurs at 12m10s. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  9. ^ Kelleher, Lynne (17 November 2007). "Is it time Soldier's Song and Ireland's Call were scrapped?". Irish Daily Mirror.
  10. ^ O'Doherty, Ian (19 September 2015). "Ireland's Call: a show of two halves". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  11. ^ a b c Cronin, Mike (7 May 2007). "Rugby globalisation and Irish identity". In Maguire, Joseph (ed.). Power and Global Sport: Zones of Prestige, Emulation and Resistance. Routledge. pp. 122–124. ISBN 9781134527274. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  12. ^ a b Moore, Cormac (13 September 2017). "Partition in Irish sport during the 1950s". In Dolan, Paddy; Connolly, John (eds.). Sport and National Identities: Globalization and Conflict. Taylor & Francis. p. 96. ISBN 9781315519111. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b Lenihan 2016 p.82
  14. ^ Lenihan 2016 p.70
  15. ^ a b Bowcott, Owen (22 August 2006). "Row over anthem as Irish rugby prepares for match in Belfast". Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  16. ^ Lenihan 2016 p.72
  17. ^ Keating, Frank (27 February 2007). "How Ravenhill rebels made an issue out of an anthem". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  18. ^ Rigby, Vic; O'Callaghan, Liam (2013). "The Riddle of Ravenhill: The 1954 Irish Rugby International in Belfast". In Ní Fhuartháin, Méabh; Doyle, David M. (eds.). Ordinary Irish Life: Music, Sport and Culture. Irish Academic Press. pp. 98–113. ISBN 9780716531548.
  19. ^ Lenihan 2016 pp.82–84
  20. ^ Lenihan 2016 pp.82–86; Glennon, Jim (4 September 2011). "It's a different world since it all began in 1987". Sunday Independent. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  21. ^ Lenihan 2016 p.86
  22. ^ Rouse, Paul (2015-10-08). Sport and Ireland: A History. OUP Oxford. p. 360. ISBN 9780191063039. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  23. ^ a b "Should the Irish players be singing Amhrán na bhFiann at the World Cup in New Zealand?". Irish Examiner. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  24. ^ "Hair-raising cry of anthems fills Croker with pride and joy". The Irish Times. 26 February 2007. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
  25. ^ "Rugby international sparks anthem row at Ravenhill". The News Letter. Belfast. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2017.
  26. ^ Doherty, Conan (6 August 2016). "Serious confusion over Ireland's national anthem for Rio hockey opener". Retrieved 7 February 2018.
  27. ^ "Lighting the blue touchpaper". BBC Online. 12 November 2000. Retrieved 9 February 2018. ... the two teams lined up opposite one another in readiness for the national anthems. The Irish players, including the Aussie contingent, belted out The Soldier's Song.
  28. ^ a b "Irish rugby league team runs into anthem row". The News Letter. Belfast. 31 October 2008. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  29. ^ Farrelly, Hugh (30 October 2008). "Irish rebuff anthem calls". Irish Independent. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  30. ^ "2016 AGM minutes". Irish Waterski and Wakeboard Federation. 21 February 2016. 14. Proposals for consideration.
  31. ^ "Protocols & Policies 2016" (PDF). National Coarse Fishing Federation of Ireland. 23 January 2016. p. 2. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  32. ^ "Ireland's Call". BBC. 29 October 2002. Retrieved 26 May 2008.
  33. ^ "Glaoch na h-Eireann" (in Irish). Kilkenny: Gaelscoil Osraí. February 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2018.; "Glaoch na hÉireann" (in Irish). Westport, County Mayo: Gaelscoil Uí Ríordáin. 15 February 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  34. ^ "Ireland's Call". Celtic Thunder (Songbook): The Music. Hal Leonard. 2008-10-01. ISBN 9781458449702. Retrieved 30 November 2017.
  35. ^ "Lyrics - Celtic Thunder". Archived from the original on 2011-10-02.

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