Us Irish are a proud bunch, aren’t we? A rich history of talented musicians, poets and sport stars have come out of this small island of ours.
Today we will be looking at the sports stars of Ireland which we are known to do here at the big kick off. Like sorry to the one Seamus Heaney fan reading this but you’ve come to the wrong place I think you’re a tad lost mate.
Anyway, with it been Paddy’s Day season it got me thinking about all the cracking football players that have put on the famous green shirt throughout the years. From stars of past generations like John Giles and Liam Brady, our heroes of Italia 90 and up to our modern-day boys in green and everything in between. Let’s see who the cream of the crop is and pick a first team that would surly bring back some silverware to Ireland.
So, before we begin as always, some admin. This is going to be an Irish best 11 from the Premier League era as an all-time starting 11 is a different conversation for a different day maybe deeper into this current virus isolation when we have all finally lost the plot.
Once a player has been capped for Ireland and made a PL appearance makes him eligible. So, this means no players from before 1992 and no lads like Packie Bonnar who never played in the Premier League. Both Ireland and Premier League careers will be taking into consideration along with a dash of personal preference.
Manager: Nathan Doyleattoni
Formation: Good old 4-4-2 nothing fancy for us Irish
1 Shay Given (GK)
A nice easy choice to start of the proceedings this. With stiff competition from the likes of Paddy Kenny and Dean Kiely I think his place in this team was always a given if you pardon the pun. He is the Irish player with most Premier League appearances with 451. He spent 20 years in the league with clubs like Blackburn Rovers, Aston Villa, Stoke City and of course Newcastle United who he was number one with for 11 years. He was even between the sticks for Manchester City at the start of their big money revolution. Probably still one of their best keepers from this era because honestly Joe Hart is rubbish.
2 John O’Shea (RB)
Now let me explain this one please. When O’Shea was breaking into the Manchester United first team, he was a pretty versatile player playing mainly anywhere across the back line and even in goal once. It was only as he got on a bit and with his time in an Ireland shirt did, he predominately play as a centre back. So, with this and the fact I wanted to squeeze others in I have him as right back. Plus, as a full back he nutmegged Luis Figo that’s all the argument I need.
John O’Shea played 445 games in the Premier League with as mentioned Manchester United and Sunderland in the twilight of his career. He won five premier league titles during his time at Old Trafford. Along with 118 caps and a spell as captain for his country it was a bright career for the Waterford native.
5 Richard Dunne (CB)
Ireland has produced some tough no nonsense footballers in its time and this man is surly one of the toughest. Playing in the Premier League for just shy of 20 years with the likes of Everton, Aston Villa, QPR and Manchester City. The latter of whom he spent a decade with during plenty of ups and downs, club captain run, several players of the year awards and plenty of own goals.
He was capped 80 times for Ireland from 2000 up until 2013 netting himself eight goals during that time. It was one day in Moscow against Russia during a Euro 2012 qualifying match with a heroic performance that truly cemented his place in the hearts of Ireland fans all over the world.
4 Paul McGrath (CB)
As the big St. Patricks Athletic fanatic around these parts any chance to give a club legend and hall of famer a mention will be taken. The Black Pearl of Inchicore had a short spell in the league compared to everyone else so far during his spells with Aston Villa and Derby County. It was his time at Aston Villa that earned him notoriety in the Premier League. He was apart of the runners up squad during the first ever Premier League season under big Ron Atkinson winning that seasons PFA Players Player of the Year. He still loved in Villa Park having his name chanted in the stands to this day.
He was capped 83 times for Ireland and has a vital part of the Euro 88, Italia 90 and World Cup 94 squads respectfully.
3 Denis Irwin (LB)
Ireland has always seemed to produce a high number of excellent full backs and have never been short in this position. Yet this man is arguably the best to ever come out of Ireland.
Most of his Premier League career was with Manchester United under one of his biggest fans Sir Alex Ferguson. He won seven league titles during this time making that left back position at Old Trafford his own. He made a late return to the league with Wolves at the age of 37 in 2003.
He was capped 56 times for Ireland making his debut in 1990 the same year as his Manchester United debut big year for Denis. His biggest achievement came representing Ireland in the World Cup 1994 in the US of A.
7 Ray Houghton (RM)
A player that spent a lot of his career honing his craft in the late 70s and all the 80s he still made 105 Premier League appearances in the league’s early years. He done this with Aston Villa who just seem to love an Irish legend and Crystal Palace. He netted eight league goals during his run and was apart of the previously mentioned runners up Aston Villa squad in the first season of the league.
He was capped 73 times for Ireland earning his first cap in Jack Charlton’s first ever game in charge against Wales on March 26th, 1986. Really this man has so much love and good will with Ireland for famously sticking the ball in the back of the English net in Euro 88.
6 Roy Keane (CM) (C)
Not only is he in but he’s also the captain of this dream team we have going on here. Making his Premier League debut with Nottingham Forrest but moving on for a British record fee at the time of 3.75 million pounds to Manchester United. He became a vital part of the league winner team in his first season in Manchester. He picked up his first league title as captain in 1997 and four more leagues after that.
Roy Keane was capped 67 times for his country during a very turbulent relationship between both parties over the years. With Keane from the off been unhappy with the Ireland set up and falling out with Managers like Jack Charlton and Mick McCarthy during the famous Saipan incident. This made a lot of Ireland players and fans sour on Roy Keane. However, during his 14 years in the Ireland squad he was a standout in many qualification games and tournaments themselves. Especially, the 1994 World Cup and during qualification for the 2002 World Cup.
8 Andy Townsend (CM)
Another adopted Paddy was Englishman Andy Townsend. Townsend made 215 premier league appearances with Middlesbrough, Chelsea and of course our friends Aston Villa seriously just get those lads a pint of Guinness. Despite the lack of league titles, he bagged 13 goals during eight Premier League seasons.
He was capped 70 times for Ireland and was a key figure in our famous run in Italia 90 playing in all five games. He even slotted home a penalty in the nerve wrecking shoot out against Romania. He went on to captain Ireland in the 1994 World Cup certainly making him one of our own.
11 Damien Duff (LM)
It’s not often Ireland produce exciting players we’re more of a hard-working bunch really but that’s exactly what Duffman was exciting.
Playing most of his career in the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Fulham. He moved from Blackburn to Chelsea for a big price tag of 17 million in 2003. Money well spent as he became a regular in their league winning title sides in their 2004/05 and 2005/06 back to back title wins.
Duffer was capped for Ireland a nice round 100 times which is as many nicknames I will try to give him in this entry apparently. He really stepped up in the 2002 World Cup playing every game in the tournament and was even voted Irelands player of the tournament not bad Damo. He was a present figure during unsuccessful qualification attempts for Euro 2004, World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008. He played his final game at Euro 2012 as he captained his beloved Ireland team on his 100th appearance.
Thank you for everything Double D. Ill stop with the silly nicknames now.
10 Robbie Keane (ST)
Of course, he was going to be in here its Robbie Keane like. He played for six clubs in the Premier League including Coventry City, Leeds United, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, West Ham and Aston Villa obviously. All dream moves if you are to believe Robbie. His most successful spell must be with Spurs scoring 80 goals in six seasons for the club.
He is the most capped player of all time with 146 caps to his name a record that looks to stand for many years to come. He is also our top goal scorer by far with 68 goals. Second place is our next entry by the way little spoiler alert for all you eager beavers out there. Most telling is since his retirement from international football in 2016 he is still yet to be replaced.
9 Niall Quinn (ST)
Now this is a striker partnership we could do with these days. Niall Quinn made 250 Premier League appearances and scored 59 goals during his time with Manchester City and his beloved Sunderland in ten years.
Quinn was capped 91 times for Ireland from 1986 up until his retirement from the game in 2002. He is the second highest goal scorer in the nation’s history with 21 goals. He represented Ireland at two World Cups in 1990 and 2002 and made a cameo appearance in the 1988 Euros. In the 2002 World Cup qualifiers he got a great birthday present on his 35th birthday. He netted against Cyprus breaking the record of Frank Stapleton to become Ireland’s all time top goal scorer at the time a record he only held on to for two years.
Substitutions: Seamus Coleman, Steve Finnan, Steve Staunton, Kevin Moran, Ian Harte, Kevin Kilbane and Jason McAteer.
Get the open top bus ready because that’s one fine looking team we have there. I’m sure there are some das screaming at the screen now wondering how Ronnie Whelan missed out. So, come join the debate on the big kick off social media pages to keep yourself entertained.
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Just so you know Whelan missed out because he’s a quite frankly an awful commentator pack it in Ronnie and we’ll see.