Northern Irish Footballers Who Played For Australia

“I come from a land down under” – Men At Work.

I have been to Australia in 4 different calendar years, in three of those I lived there, mostly in Poatina or Parramatta. In two of those, I watched Northern Irish footballer Terry McFlynn ply his trade for Sydney FC, where he became a fans favourite. Despite all that, Terry still never received a call up for the full Northern Ireland side, nor is he included in this list as he also was never capped for Australia. So far, international football has also eluded Robert Burns who was recently at Newcastle United Jets. It ponders the question – why would you play for a country that isn’t your birth country?

Northern Irish Footballers Who Played For Australia

Northern Irish Footballers Who Played For Australia

The fact is that it happens for many reasons. Steve Lomas, for example was born in West Germany. West Germany doesn’t exist but he would have been eligible to play for West Germany or Germany. Having grown up in Northern Ireland however, Steve was only ever going to represent Northern Ireland. There might be a list of footballers born outside of Northern Ireland that played for Northern Ireland, but what about all those Northern Irish born players who later played for other countries? There are many more of them than you think…I previously wrote about Northern Irish born players who represented the USA, but what about these four wacaday lads? They didn’t represent the six counties up north, they represented the land down under! G’day mate, strewth!

“I want to fly and run till it hurts, sleep for a while and sleep no words” – Manic Street Preachers.

Camping in a land down under

Relaxing by my tent in Poatina, Tasmania, Australia.

Northern Irish Footballers Who Played For Australia

After research, I was only able to find details of four footballers born in Northern Ireland that won full level caps for Australia. It is possible others did it, but these are the guys for now on the list. There are no players who have won full international caps for Australia and Northern Ireland. However, Connor Pain could still do it.

1.Ron Adair

Born: Londonderry/Derry, Northern Ireland (1931).
Australia caps: 3 (1954-1958).
Australia goals: 1.
Australia “B” caps: 2.
Western Australia caps: 23.

Clubs: North Perth, Maccabeans, Perth Azzurri, North Shore, Swan Athletic.
Position: Defender.
Geek Unique Fact: Ron Adair is the only Northern Irishman to captain Australia.
Decent Article:

Hailing from the Maiden City, Ron Adair is one of the coolest guys on this list. Not only did he move to Australia and play for Australia. But Ron captained Australia and scored for Australia. He played in 3 full internationals over a period spanning two World Cup years (1954-1958). As well as that, he represented Australia in 1955 against Rapid Vienna, and in 1959 against Heart of Midlothian. He was inducted into the Australian football Hall of Fame in 1999. As well as this, Ron Adair played for Western Australia, captaining them 11 times.

The legendary Ron Adair

2.Alan Hunter

Born: Larne, Northern Ireland (1964).
Australia caps: 9 (1986-1988).
Australia goals: 1.

Clubs: Brisbane Lions, Heidelberg United, Sydney Croatia, Parramatta Eagles, Brisbane Strikers, Carlton SC, Manly-Warrington Dolphins.
Position: Defender.
Geek Unique Fact: Alan Hunter played for Croatia and Australia, but not Northern Ireland.

When his birth country Northern Ireland headed to the World Cup finals in Mexico in 1986, Larne born Alan Hunter was making his debut for the Socceroos. Intriguingly, Alan makes for a good teaser – “who was born in Larne and played football for Croatia?” Answer is Alan Hunter – he played for a club called Sydney Croatia. Alan scored a brave few goals for a defender and also won the Joe Marston Medal for man of the match in the domestic final in 1996/97. As well as 9 full level caps, Alan also played several games for the Socceroos in ‘A’ and ‘B’ international matches. Oh and don’t confuse him with Allan Hunter, the below Allan Hunter actually did play for Northern Ireland!

A different Allan Hunter…

A different Allan Hunter that wasn’t in the land down under

3.Frank Loughran

Born: Belfast, Northern Ireland (1931).
Australia caps: 8 (1955 – 1958).
Australia goals: 2.

Clubs: Brantwood, Moreland.
Position: Midfielder.
Geek Unique Fact: Frank played for an Australian club which shares the same name as a Northern Ireland international – Moreland.

Belfast-born Frank Loughran has the distinction of being the first ever international footballer from Northern Ireland to score against both Japan and New Zealand. Frank’s career is truly zany. He has scored in the Olympics, scored against Juventus, scored for Brantwood and even played for a club that has the same name as Victor Moreland! Sadly, Frank passed away in January 2008, aged 76. Loughran scored for Moreland in their 2-1 victory over (Brunswick) Juventus in the 1957 final of the Dockerty Cup. His legacy lives on and is recognised by the Australian FA.

4.Billy Rice

Born: Belfast, Northern Ireland (1931).
Australia caps: 5 (1965 – 1969).
Clubs: Distillery (youth), Footscray JUST.
Position: Midfielder.
Geek Unique Fact: Billy Rice played over 500 times for Melbourne club Footscray JUST.
Decent Article: 
Vale Billy Rice, we hardly knew you

Billy Rice is a name that goes down in Australian football folklore. He was part of Australia’s 1966 World Cup qualification attempt. Unfortunately in those games, Australia lost heavily to North Korea. That was the same North Korea side that shocked the world at the World Cup in England in 1966, by beating Italy 1-0 and holding a 3-0 win over Portugal. Rice played over 500 times for the Melbourne club Footscray JUST. Billy Rice died in 2008.


The Asutralia football squad from the 1960s, including Northern Irishman Billy Rice

The Australia football squad from the 1960s, including Northern Irishman Billy Rice

Northern Ireland players in Australia

Down the years there have been many Northern Irishmen playing club football in Australia. These include George Best, Terry McFlynn, Aaron Hughes and Robert Burns. But this article isn’t about that.

With Terry McFlynn in the land down under

Australia and Northern Ireland at the World Cup

It’s interesting to note that Northern Ireland and Australia have never ever been at the same World Cup together. Australia have been at 5 World Cups, Northern Ireland have been to 3 World Cups. However, apart from Australia’s 2006 adventure to the last 16, they’ve never fared better than any of Northern Ireland’s three World Cups thus far.

1958 – Northern Ireland (Last 8 – Quarter Finals)
1974 – Australia (Last 16 – group stage exit)
1982 – Northern Ireland (Last 12)
1986 – Northern Ireland (Last 24 – group stage exit)
2006 – Australia (Last 16)
2010 – Australia (Last 32 – group stage exit)
2014 – Australia (Last 32 – group stage exit)
2018 – Australia (Last 32 – group stage exit)

Northern Ireland goalscorers against Australia

Northern Ireland have played Australia at full level only 3 times. All those matches took place in the same month, in the same year, in the same country! In June 1980, Northern Ireland toured Australia, you can read all about that tour here. These are the goalscorers, notably Colin McCurdy only played 30 minutes in a Northern Ireland shirt, yet has 1 cap and 1 goal to his name.

Martin O’Neill – 2
Chris Nicholl – 1
Noel Brotherston – 1
Colin McCurdy – 1

Northern Ireland’s record against Australia

Northern Ireland’s record against Australia

Australia 1-2 Northern Ireland (Sydney, 11th June 1980)

Australia 1-1 Northern Ireland (Melbourne 15th June 1980)

Australia 1-2 Northern Ireland (Adelaide 18th June 1980)

Northern Ireland’s record against Western Australia

After those thre matches with Australia, Northern Ireland completed their obligations Down Under with a friendly against Western Australia. We won 4-0. With State representative football at that time experiencing a slump in appeal, a paltry 2,631 fans came through the WACA Ground turnstiles to see Western Australia receive a 4-0 hammering. “1980 will go down as the year that international soccer was beaten, bludgeoned and buried in Western Australia, possibly for all time”, said an article in the 1981 Soccer Federation of WA yearbook.

In the 4-0 win, the goalscorers were Gerry Armstrong, Terry Cochrane 2 and John O’Neill. Officially those goals are mnot counted by FIFA or UEFA as official goals.

Meeting my hero - Gerry Armstrong who played in two World Cups, scoring 3 goals.

Meeting my hero – Gerry Armstrong who played in two World Cups, scoring 3 goals.

Other links to my football stories the last year or so…

Other links –


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