15 Best Irish Football Players of All Time

Who is the greatest football player from Ireland?

As one of the dark horses in European football, it is not surprising to know that Ireland has a lot of quality football players who play in different leagues in the world. Although Irish national team has never won any major achievements at the international level, many players from this country has won numerous prestigious titles at club level. Who are those great players?

In this article, I specifically discuss 15 best Irish players of all time. They do not just have great individual football skills, but also have major role in bringing their clubs claim glories in various competitions. Without further ado, here is the list:

15. Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne is a central defender who is often regarded as one of Manchester City's best player of all time. He was instrumental in helping Manchester City win a promotion to the Premier League in the 2001-02 season. Not only that, Dunne was also four times in a row awarded as the best player of Manchester City and twice was selected as the best player of Ireland. He has played for the Irish national team since 2000, scoring eight goals in 80 appearances.

14. Shay Given

Shay Given is the best Irish goalkeeper ever to play in the Premier League competition. The goalkeeper who was born in 1976 underwent twelve-year career at Newcastle United and also played for Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa. With a total of 125 appearances, Shay Given is a player with the highest number of appearances for Irish national team. Given also two consecutive years was named the best player of Ireland in 2005 and 2006.

13. Paul McGrath

Paul McGrath is one of the legendary Irish defenders. This player spent 14 years in his professional career playing for two Premier League clubs, Manchester United and Aston Villa. At Manchester United, he won one FA Cup and at Aston Villa he claimed two League Cup trophies. Not only that, McGrath was part of the Ireland squad for the 1990 and 1994 World Cup as well as Euro 1988. This player ended his career in 1998 at Sheffield United.

12. Steve Staunton

Steve Staunton is a retired defender who was trusted to be the captain of Ireland in the 2002 World Cup tournament. Throughout his career, he played for seven years at Liverpool and thirteen years at Aston Villa. With Liverpool, he won a Premier League title and an FA Cup trophy. His career at Aston Villa was also equally brilliant, in which Staunton managed to win two League Cup trophies. Besides his regular position as a left back, Staunton could also be positioned as a center-back.

11. Ray Houghton

Ray Houghton will always be remembered by Ireland supporters because he scored crucial goals that helped his country win by 1-0 against England in Euro 1988 and against Italy in the 1994 World Cup. Just as some of the best Irish players on this list, Houghton spent most of his career playing for Liverpool and Aston Villa. Throughout his career, he won two Premier League titles, two FA Cup trophies, and one League Cup trophy.

10. Tony Cascarino

Tony Cascarino is a former striker who had fairly successful career at French League. He was instrumental in helping Marseille win a promotion to Ligue 1 in the 1994-95 season. In the 1997-98 season, he repeated the same feat at Nancy, winning the Ligue 2 and gaining promotion to the top division of the French league. Due to his high productivity in scoring goals while playing in France, Cascarino was dubbed as "Tony Goal" by football fans in this country.

9. Niall Quinn

Nial Quinn was the Irish number one striker in the 1990s. Throughout his career from 1983 to 2002, Quinn played for three English clubs: Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland. Failed to shine at Arsenal as he was played more as a substitute, Quinn moved to Manchester City in 1990. Before he was hit by prolonged injury, he became the club's leading striker. His best career period happen when playing for Sunderland, where his duet with Kevin Phillips played major role to help the club win the First Division League in the 1998-99 season.

8. John O'Shea

Just like Denis Irwin, John O'Shea underwent a glorious career when playing for Manchester United in the 1999-2011 period. The versatile defender could be played as a central defender, wingback, and sometimes was positioned as a defensive midfielder. During his period at Manchester United, O'Shea won five Premier League titles, three FA Cup trophies, one Champions League trophy, and one FIFA Club World Cup title.

7. Packie Bonner

Packie "Pat" Bonner is a retired footballer who is regarded as one of Ireland's best goalkeepers of all time. He became the main goalkeeper of Ireland national team in the four major tournaments: 1990 and 1994 World Cup and Euro 1988 and 1992. Throughout his career at the club level from 1978 to 1998, he played only for one club, Glasgow Celtic. At Celtic, Packie Bonner won four Scottish League titles and three Scottish Cup trophies.

6. Robbie Keane

With a record of 62 goals, Robbie Keane is the top scorer of all time of Ireland national football team. Throughout his career, he played in the Premier League, Italian League, and Major League Soccer (United States). His best achievement in the Premier League happened when he played for Tottenham Hotspur, where Keane won a League Cup trophy in 2008. During his best, Keane is known as an energetic striker with high determination and creativity.

5. John Aldridge

John Aldridge is one of Ireland's most successful strikers ever to play in the Premier League competition. This player played for Liverpool in the 1987-89 period, winning a Premier League title and scored 50 goals in 83 matches. His combination with Paul Beardsley and John Barnes formed a deadly trident that was highly feared by the opposing team's defenders. Aldridge scored 19 goals from 63 appearances for Ireland national football team.

4. David O'Leary

David O'Leary is a retired central defender who became a mainstay of Arsenal for 18 years, from 1975 to 1983. O'Leary is known as a defender who is very calm and intelligent in anticipating the opponent's attack. In total, he played in over 700 matches for Arsenal and won two Premier League titles as well as two FA Cup trophies. This player ended his career as a professional footballer in 1995 at Leeds United.

3. Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin was part of a golden generation of Manchester United in the 1990s. During 12 years playing for the Red Devils, Irwin won seven Premier League titles, one Champions League trophy, and three FA Cup trophies. In the period 1990-2002, his position as Manchester United's first choice left-back was almost irreplaceable. Besides being known as great a defender, Irwin also scored a lot of goals, most of them were made through penalty kicks.

2. Damien Duff

Damien Duff is a fast, agile, and energetic winger. Duff's golden period occurred when he played for Chelsea from 2003 to 2006, where he won two Premier League titles and a League Cup trophy. Unfortunately, due to the arrival of Arjen Robben, Duff was eventually sold to Newcastle United. After three seasons playing for Newcastle, Duff moved to Fulham, where he managed to take the club to be the Europa League runners-up in 2010.

1. Roy Keane

Roy Keane is a retired defensive midfielder who was trusted to be the captain of Manchester United in the 1990s. The role of Roy Keane at Manchester United as a defensive midfielder was almost irreplaceable, and he successfully presented seven Premier League titles, four FA Cup trophies and one Champions League trophy during 12 years playing for Manchester United. At his golden period, Keane is known as a hard worker midfielder who is highly temperamental. He is also praised for his ability to motivate and lead his teammates during period of crisis.

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