Relatives of the 1924 Olympics players on the pitch at the Aviva Stadium at half time.

Ireland's first two international captains were Athlone players

Athlone Town now officially has Ireland's first two international captains.

Confirmation of the history-making feat came recently as the FAI formally acknowledged the 1924 Olympic team as Ireland's first senior international footballers.

Descendants of the players involved in four international football games at and around the 1924 Paris Olympics were invited to a ceremony at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin during the recent friendly against Hungary, at which the FAI confirmed it was rewriting its history books.

The Irish squad which competed at the Olympics football tournament 100 years ago was the first to represent the new football association, which had only been formed three years previously, following the split with the Belfast-based Irish Football Association, which up to then had governed the game across all 32 counties.

The games at the Olympics were recognised as full internationals at the time and caps were awarded for some if not all of the games. However, with the passing of time, subsequent FIFA rulings and the fact that the FAI did not have complete responsibility for the games which were played under the auspices of the Olympic movement, the games slipped from the record books.

Instead, the FAI had deemed its meeting with Italy in 1926 as its opening international.

Both FIFA and Ireland's opponents in the four matches now consider the 1924 games as full internationals – and the FAI has followed suit.

The 16-player squad which competed in the 1924 Olympics received a bye in the opening round, and then under the captainship of Athlone man Denis Hannon defeated Bulgaria 1-0 before exiting the tournament with a 2-1 extra-time defeat to Netherlands at the quarter final stage. Ireland played a friendly match against Estonia in Paris the following day, captained by another Athlone Town player, John Joe Dykes, a Sligo native.

Eleven days later, the USA team, on their way home from the Olympic tournament, played Ireland in Dalymount Park.

In total, 19 players, who were involved across those four games, and the coach, Charlie Harris, from Bohemians, were honoured at the event, which was attended by relatives of the 20 men.

Instrumental in the campaign to have the players recognised was Athlone man Tadhg Carey, who has written extensively on that part of Irish football history.

Speaking at the ceremony in the Aviva Stadium, Carey thanked the other members of the group, Paul Lennon, Gary Spain, Aodhan O'Riordain and Gerry Farrell for their work. The group campaigned to the FAI to have the 1924 team restored to its proper place in Irish sporting history.

Carey also pointed out that the players, as well as being Ireland's original soccer internationals, also had the remarkable distinction of being the country's first Olympians. The 1924 Games was the first occasion Ireland had a national delegation competing under its own flag, and the 1924 football tournament preceded the rest of the Olympic Games.

The ceremony in the Aviva Stadium was also addressed by FAI President Paul Cooke. It coincided almost to the week with the 100th anniversary of the four matches.

The FAI has also pledged to present commemorative caps to the families of the players.

In total, five Athlone Town players have now been officially recognised for their involvement in the four games. They were Tommy Muldoon (who played in all four – and whose descendants reside in Birmingham, UK), Frank Ghent (who featured in two of the games), goalkeeper Paddy O'Reilly (a Dubliner who lined out in three and whose son and daughter were in attendance at the event), Hannon, who played in two of the games, and Dykes (three appearances).