The Northern Ireland Branch was formed in June 2000 and membership has increased steadily since.
Meetings are held on the 2nd Monday of each month in The Botanic Inn (“The Bot”) on the Malone Road, Belfast, starting at 8pm and also every time SAFC plays live on SKY (we watch in “The Bot”).
Prospective new members are always welcome to attend these meetings without any obligation.
A lot of people in Northern Ireland either support Sunderland or have a soft spot for them. That includes NI natives as well as some members originally hailing from the Sunderland area who have settled over here.
One reason why so many folk over here support the Lads is because many former SAFC players originally hailed from Northern Ireland, amongst them being Billy Bingham, Martin Harvey, Johnny Crossan, John Parke, Jim Grattan, Tippy Gray, George McCartney and Anton Rogan. SAFC also continues to scout young talent from N Ireland and in recent years Trevor Carson and Robbie Weir from over here have been on SAFC’s books. Northern Ireland international David Healy – a hero in Northern Ireland after his exploits against England and Spain – also had a spell at the club – although unfortunately things didn’t work out too well for him.
Plus of course we in Northern Ireland had a very big reason for supporting Sunderland until only recently – Martin O’Neill. Martin is very well respected in NI and across world football, and it was too bad that things didn’t work out for the self-professed Sunderland supporter.
A further link with Northern Ireland at the Club is Margaret Byrne, SAFC’s CEO. Ms Byrne is building a strong reputation in English footballing circles, as a shrewd businesswoman – being hailed as “one of the most influential women in British football” after joining the FA Council.
Northern Ireland Branch social events each year include a Quiz night in May, open to other NI Supporters Clubs of Premiership, Championship and Nationwide teams and a Xmas dinner. Various other events are organised in the course of each season, such as guest speaker nights – Mick Horswill has been over, as have Bobby Kerr and Eric Gates.
Fundraisers, including an annual ballot are also held and are all successful; and donations to appeals (such as the Statue for Stokoe appeal). In the thirteen years that the Quiz has been running, we have raised thousands of pounds for charity. Regular guests at the quiz include the supporters’ associations of Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Man Utd, Man City, Ipswich, Burnley, Leeds, West Ham and many others.
Regular trips to the SoL are organised by the club and we even have some season ticket holders as members – even though we have the Irish Sea to negotiate to get there!! It can be expensive being a football supporter from here!!
Haway the Lads!