FAI Schools was established in 1968 as the Irish Secondary Schools Football Association. However, football had been played for 13 years prior to that with the Leinster Schools Easter Vacation League having just two official schools entering, though there were a number of "unofficial" members, given the external influences that prevailed at the time! By the mid sixties, this league had grown to over forty teams representing schools in the Dublin area while a similar organisation was being established in the West. Indeed, in 1966 & 1967 the winners of the Connacht Schools' Cup played the Leinster champions for the Irish Schools' Senior Cup. Following some moves to co-ordinate the running of schools football with the ISSFA, the first ever Football Association of Irish Schools was formed in 1970. Nearly forty years later, the Association now boasts a membership of over 500 second level schools as well as 1,000 primary schools. Each year, the FAI Schools organises football for more than 50,000 students throughout the country.
FAI Schools established its first International Under 18s Boys' team in 1988 while it fielded its first International Girls' team at Under 15 level in 2002.
Football in primary schools has been played for many years but it's only in recent years that it has begun to develop rapidly. Primary schools were active in major urban centres, Kildare and Donegal but the advent of a National 5 a side competition saw significant growth in participation throughout the country. While there is now football at primary level in each of the 26 counties, there remains major scope for development and expansion.
SPAR become national title sponsor of the Primary 5s competition in February 2015. There were 2,967 teams involved in 2016 from 1,267 schools (increase of 19% from 2015) competed in the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s programme. This amounted to 14,416 boys and 9,320 girls. The National Finals were held in the Aviva Stadium on May 11, 2016. The programme catered for a total of 23,736 participants
Primary schools also have equal representation at Branch Executive and National Executive level and primary school teachers are now active at all levels of the Association.
Post Primary Schools
Football in second level schools has been organised along competitive lines since the late 1960s. Initially a handful of Dublin schools were involved but over time participation has grown to the current level where schools from every county in the country are involved. Nowadays two out of every three secondary schools take part at some level in FAI Schools Cup competitions.
There are now 11 Cup competitions from First Year through to Senior Boys and Girls that provide All Ireland winners. There are long established representative competitions at Interprovincial and International level for both boys and girls.
Schools football in Ireland is currently overseen by FAI Schools. Some of the programmes of activity that take place are as follows:
The Association is responsible for 14 National Cups at second level while there are in excess of thirty other competitions held throughout the four branches. Meanwhile at Primary level, the ever popular 5 a side event attracts nearly 24,000 competitors across the country while there are also local competitions in Donegal, Dublin as well as Cork and Waterford.
The FAI Schools organises an annual Interprovincial representative tournament for Boys Under 18 and Girls Under 15 and both competitions are the key recruiting process for underage International squads.
Boys Under 18: Centenary Shield
Irish Schools International games have been played since 1988. In 1988 the Irish Schools team played in the Celtic Cup with Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They have won the competition every year since 1998 except 2000 (holders retain trophy if teams are equal on points).
The Irish Schools now also compete in the Centenary Shield since 2003, with Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. They were winners of this competition in 2003 and 2004 (joint winners in 2005 with Northern Ireland) 2008, 2010 and 2015.
Girls Under 15: Bob Docherty Cup
The FAI Schools under 15 Girls Development Squad have been playing since 2002 in the Celtic Nations Trophy with Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. They have won the competition four times, most recently in 2010. The girls were runners up in 2014 and 2015.
FAI Schools is an affiliate to the FAI. The Association is governed by an National Executive and it is divided into Provincial Branches as follows:
Each Branch is then subdivided into three Sections as follows:
- A Primary Section
- A Post-Primary Girls Section
- A Post-Primary Boys Section