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The domestic game went from bad to worse during the 1980s with clubs all over the country struggling for finance. Shamrock Rovers were forced out of their home, Glenmalure Park, while St Patrick's Athletic were forced to move out of Richmond Park towards the end of the decade although they subsequently returned in 1993. On the field, Shamrock Rovers were again the team to beat as they won a record four titles in a row, though provincial clubs Athlone, Dundalk and Derry City also claimed titles. The 1990s saw an improvement in the game domestically. Facilities at grounds throughout the country improved, as did the standard of football. Shelbourne and St Patrick's Athletic dominated the decade, winning four league titles between them, with Shelbourne also winning three FAI Cups.

The national game received a huge boost when the Republic, under Jack Charlton, qualified for the 1988 European Championship—their first ever major finals—where they won their first game 1–0 against England. This was followed by qualification for the World Cup in 1990, 1994 (where they beat Italy) and 2002. However, the Saipan incident, when the team captain Roy Keane went home (or was sent home) before the start of the 2002 World Cup after a public quarrel with manager Mick McCarthy over the facilities and preparation for the tournament, had far-reaching effects on the sport in Ireland. The FAI commissioned a report from external consultants Genesis, into its World Cup preparations. The "Genesis Report" agreed with many of Keane's criticisms, finding that the FAI structure was not conducive to good planning and making a range of recommendations. Brendan Menton resigned as FAI General Secretary at this time, and the media linked the two events, though Menton denied this. A second Genesis report, this time produced by the FAI but disingenuously called "Genesis II" (or the "White Paper"), in 2005 recommended a radical overhaul of the League of Ireland and led to the appointment of an assessment group. A joint implementation committee made major changes to the league, including merging the league with the FAI, changing the management structure and revamping the league structure.

The League of Ireland entered its best ever era in the 2000s when Bohemians knocked Aberdeen out of the UEFA Cup and beat Kaiserslautern of Germany in the next round. A brief period of mixed results turned for the better in 2004. Shelbourne became the first team to get to the third qualifying round of the Champions League, where they knocked out by Spanish club Deportivo La Coruña 3–0 on aggregate. However, the league continued in improving results and thanks in part to Cork City making progress in the Champions League qualifiers, and Derry City beating IFK Gothenburg and Gretna in the UEFA Cup before falling in the final tie before the group stage. In 2008, it got its second best co-efficient in its history. The League of Ireland in 2007 was won by Drogheda United—their first ever league championship. The league entered difficult times along with the Irish economy during 2008 and 2009.

In 2011 the League got the best co-efficient in its history as Shamrock Rovers made history by becoming the first Irish club to reach the group stages of the Europa League.

It is currently ranked as the 31st best league in Europe out of 53. The league has scored at least 1.000 in every year since 2003, meaning it is currently in its best European cycle to date.

The Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Wales are currently joint bidding to co-host UEFA Euro 2020.

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