Phil Coulter: Twenty years of Ireland’s call

Derry's Phil Coulter in a photo taken by local photographer Hugh Gallagher in Bray back in 2008, holding up the original sheet music with for Ireland's Call, the anthem of Irish rugby.

Derry's Phil Coulter in a photo taken by local photographer Hugh Gallagher in Bray back in 2008, holding up the original sheet music with for Ireland's Call, the anthem of Irish rugby.

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As Ireland prepare to face England in crunch Six Nations Championship game tomorrow in Dublin, it is also now twenty years since Derry’s Eurovision winning song writer Phil Coulter penned one of Irish rugby’s anthems-Ireland’s Call.

Written by Coulter in 1995, it was first broadcast simultaneously in Northern Ireland on the Kelly show and in the Republic of Ireland on Gay Byrne’s Late Late Show, sung by Andrew Strong, singer in the film The Commitments, accompanied by Portadown Male Voice Choir.

This photograph taken by Derry photographer Hugh Gallagher in 2008, shows Phil Coulter holding up the original musical score of Ireland’s Call. The after story of this image captured by Hugh in Co Wicklow is that Phil Coulter donated it to Richard Moore, the founder of the Derry based charity Children in Crossfire and it was later auctioned off in a fundraising event for the charity.

Since its creation, there has been an ongoing debate in Irish society over the song – both in terms of its political suitability, and in terms of the quality of the composition. This tends to come to a head during each Rugby World Cup – the only time the Irish team plays a succession of matches away from home, and hence, when “Ireland’s Call” is most prominently used.

In the wake of Ireland’s game against England at Croke Park in the 2007 Six Nations championship, commentators in the Irish media talked about how powerful the rendition of the anthem was: “Amhrán na bhFiann” and “Ireland’s Call” were belted out with such hair-raising intensity that men and women were crying as they sang.