Football in wartime Northern Ireland

Between 1940 and 1947, football in wartime Northern Ireland continued in an ad hoc fashion with amateur teams competing in a newly established league.

Football, Association Football, or Soccer; whatever name you give it, it has long been one of the most popular sports in Northern Ireland. The Irish League, in which teams from the north competed, began in 1922. During the Second World War, there were many changes.

Between 1940 and 1947, footballing authorities suspended The Irish League. The Northern Ireland Regional League or North Regional League operated during this time. All teams comprised amateur players and some also fielded military service personnel based in Ulster at the time.

Wartime football in Northern Ireland continued throughout the Second World War. In the latter years, there were many charity games, fundraisers, and friendlies involving sporting teams and military units.

Recommended reading: ‘A Record of British Wartime Football’ by Brian McColl.

1940-1941 Northern Regional Football League

This season saw the beginning of the Northern Regional Football League. Matches between Glenavon v Linfield and Portadown v Belfast Celtic did not take place.

Pos Name P W D L F A Points
1 Belfast Celtic 27 19 4 4 104 32 42
2 Portadown 27 17 4 6 92 58 38
3 Glentoran 28 16 5 7 99 57 37
4 Linfield 27 14 4 9 67 51 32
5 Distillery 28 13 5 10 77 57 31
6 Derry City 28 8 3 17 48 100 19
7 Glenavon 27 6 4 17 40 95 16
Featured image for Filming locations of The Keeper

Filming locations of The Keeper


4th April 2019

The filming locations of The Keeper - the story of German-born goalkeeper Bert Trautmann - feature football stadiums and other parts of Belfast, Co. Antrim.

Map showing The Glentoran Pillbox, The Oval, Belfast

The Glentoran Pillbox, The Oval, Belfast

37 Parkgate Drive, Belfast

The Glentoran Pillbox is a Type 24 structure on Sydenham Hill overlooking much of East Belfast. July 2019 saw it restored to its original 1940s condition.

Featured image for Linfield v Belgian XI at Windsor Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim

Linfield v Belgian XI at Windsor Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim


5th July 2019

Linfield v Belgian XI at Windsor Park, Belfast, Co. Antrim was an interesting spectacle of football with the visitors fielding some international players.

Footballers in Northern Ireland

John Arlow

Rifleman | 7014039

John Arlow died on 29th May 1940 as 2nd Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles held off enemy attacks furing the BEF's retreat that would end at Dunkirk, France.

William Bell

William Bell

Sergeant | 624554

Sergeant William Bell of Doagh, Co. Antrim served in Bomber Command with RAF 44 Squadron when he died on a raid over Krefeld, Germany on 6th September 1940.

David Leslie Thomas Craig

Flight Sergeant | 540596

Flight Sergeant David Leslie Thomas Craig of Strabane, Co. Tyrone died on 26th August 1942 on the return leg of a Bomber Command raid over Germany.

Archibald Grant

Archibald Grant

Bombardier | 1463105

Bombardier Archibald Grant died on 21st February 1942. He was a former player at Linfield Football Club before enlisting in the Territorial Army in 1939.


Henry “Harry” Kane

Signalman | D/JX 165720

Henry "Harry" Kane of Portadown, Co. Armagh was a keen footballer from Portadown, Co. Armagh who served in the ranks of the Royal Navy in both World Wars.

James Victor McCaig

Leading Steward | D/LX 26009

Leading Steward James Victor McCaig of Ballymena, Co. Antrim died on 11th August 1943 while serving off the Italian coast on board H.M. Submarine Parthian.

James Stirling Moore

James Stirling Moore

Pilot Officer | 156433

Pilot Officer James Stirling Moore was born in Belfast and served with R.A.F. 78 Squadron when shot down over Berlin on 24th August 1943.

Thomas Pearson

Lance Sergeant | 2721484

Lance Sergeant Thomas Pearson was a goalkeeper with Glentoran Football Club. He died on 28th April 1943 while serving in Tunisia with the Irish Guards.

Joseph Rooney - Wolverhampton Wanderers

Joseph Rooney

Corporal | 4036188

Corporal Joseph Rooney died on 5th May 1941 while serving in Belfast, Co. Antrim. The English soldier was a professional footballer before World War Two.

Samuel Sanderson

Sergeant | 746826

Sergeant Samuel Sanderson died on 9th August 1940 in an R.A.F. training exercise. He was a well-known singer, footballer, and cricketer at home in Belfast.

Samuel Fleming Stewart

2nd Lieutenant

Second Lieutenant Samuel Fleming Stewart served in Royal Ulster Rifles during World War Two. His death was listed as "on active service" in Belfast in 1943.




Recreation in Wartime