The FAI led the tributes to President Michael D Higgins as he celebrated his 80th Birthday on Sunday.
A long-serving fan of both the League of Ireland and international football, President Higgins is a regular in stands up and down the country.
The Limerick native, who settled in Galway, prior to his move to Áras an Uachtaráin when he became President of Ireland in 2011, still maintains his season ticket for Eamonn Deacy Park.
Happy Birthday @PresidentIRL 🎉
A fantastic supporter of Irish football ⚽️☘️ pic.twitter.com/x9niWRNwn8
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) April 18, 2021
President Higgins praised the efforts of those involved in ensuring the League of Ireland's return in March of this year, after a difficult 12 months.
In a statement, he wished all sides the best of luck for the upcoming season and thanked fans for their continued support.
"During the past year we have seen the doors close on our pitches and soccer grounds, matches and fixtures cancelled, cheering supporters forced to remain at home.
"It has been a difficult but necessary sacrifice, willingly made by players, coaches, staff and supporters as we face, collectively, the challenge of Covid-19.
"During this past year, there have been many reminders of the integral role of the integral role within our society that is occupied by our sporting community.
"In towns, villages and suburbs across the country it has so often been our sports clubs and their members who have led initiatives to help, make contact with and reassure those of our people who are vulnerable or isolated at this time."
🥳: Happy 80th birthday to @PresidentIRL
🤝: One of our most loyal supporters through the years!
— Gaillimh Aontaithe (@GalwayUnitedFC) April 18, 2021
President Higgins joined Joe Molloy on Off The Ball in July 2020 to pay tribute to Jack Charlton, following the death of the former Republic of Ireland manager.
He described him as an 'icon' saying he was "not confined to any period but to the game itself" and also said "all those people from different generations, who came into the atmosphere, I think was down to his influence.
"That period of time, that great period, with Irish people travelling abroad, acquiring a reputation for being great supporters, good supporters before and after games, he really is the person who will always be associated with all of that."
"One of the reasons I come to the league is you will see what are football families through the different generations - people who have supported for so long and youngsters as well. A marvelous long tradition. People should never forget that." @PresidentIRL #MichaelD80 ❤️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/uJ4mV1i3na
— Bohemian Football Club (@bfcdublin) April 18, 2021