NIFL Championship 2 in Northern Ireland is a semi-professional football league that sits below the NIFL Championship 1. The league was formed in 2008 as the IFA Intermediate League and was renamed to the NIFL Championship 2 in 2013.
In this article, we will provide a complete guide to the NIFL Championship 2, including its history, current format, teams, and notable players.
The Rise of NIFL Championship 2: A History and Overview
As the bridge between intermediate and senior football in Northern Ireland, the NIFL Championship 2 has come a long way since its creation in 2008. Today, it is a thriving league with a format that ensures each team plays a total of 22 league matches, making for an exciting season of football. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history and current format of the NIFL Championship 2.
The Creation of IFA Intermediate League
The IFA Intermediate League was created in 2008 to bridge the gap between intermediate and senior football in Northern Ireland. Comprised of 16 teams, the league provided a platform for players to showcase their skills and compete at a higher level. The ultimate goal for each team was to become the champions, as they would earn promotion to the prestigious IFA Championship 1.
The Change to NIFL Championship 2
In 2013, the Irish Football Association (IFA) took control of the league and renamed it to the NIFL Championship 2. Along with the name change, the league format was also altered to include 14 teams. The new format ensured that the top team would earn promotion to the NIFL Championship 1, while the bottom team would face relegation to the Mid-Ulster Football League. This change brought a new level of excitement to the league, as teams now had a clear path to progress to the next level.
Current Format of NIFL Championship 2
Today, the NIFL Championship 2 is comprised of 12 teams. Each team plays against every other team twice, once at home and once away, for a total of 22 league matches. The team that finishes on top of the league at the end of the season earns promotion to the NIFL Championship 1, providing a clear incentive for teams to compete at their best. This format has proven to be successful, as it ensures a level playing field for all teams and allows for a fair competition.
There is no relegation from the league, as the NIFL Championship 2 serves as the lowest tier of senior football in Northern Ireland.
The following 12 teams are currently playing in the NIFL Championship 2:
- Armagh City
- Banbridge Town
- Belfast Celtic
- Coagh United
- Moyola Park
- Newington YC
- Queen’s University
- Sport & Leisure Swifts
- Tobermore United
Notable Players from NIFL Championship 2: Stuart Dallas and Josh Carson
The NIFL Championship 2, despite being a lower-tier league, has produced some of the most successful football players in Northern Ireland. Here are the two most notable players who started their careers in this league and went on to play for top-tier teams.
Stuart Dallas: From Coagh United to Leeds United
Stuart Dallas is a Northern Ireland international who started his career playing for Coagh United in the NIFL Championship 2. He then moved on to Crusaders, where he impressed enough to attract the attention of Brentford, who signed him in 2012.
After three years with Brentford, Dallas moved to Leeds United, where he has become a vital player for the team. He has played over 200 games for Leeds, helping them gain promotion to the Premier League and playing a key role in their success in the top-flight.
Josh Carson: From Coleraine to Multiple Clubs
Josh Carson is another notable player who started his career in the NIFL Championship 2. He played for Coleraine before moving to Ipswich Town in 2009. While at Ipswich, Carson made several appearances for the team but struggled to establish himself as a regular player.
He has since played for a number of clubs in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, including York City, Linfield, and Cliftonville. While he may not have achieved the same level of success as Stuart Dallas, Carson’s career highlights include winning the Irish Cup with Coleraine in 2018 and playing for the Northern Ireland national team.