Certainly, Ireland has produced fantastic footballers over the past few years. With a good number of youngsters rising through the ranks of the Irish domestic league, it has been pleasant to watch more wonder kids seep through and achieve great things in the round leather game.
Many Irish greats have graced top European clubs like Juventus, Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur, Celtic, Arsenal, and lots more. Despite Ireland’s recent shortage of stars in the biggest European clubs at the moment, one need not search too far into the past to see how many greats the country has produced, but for the sake of this write up we will examine the greatest 5.
Players of the Republic of Ireland descent have at some point played football at the highest levels like English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, and FIFA World Cup, of professional football.
Below is a look at our top five (5) greatest Irish football players of all time, that have at some point in their career, made the nation proud:
- Paul McGrath
Despite battling through severe knee problems and alcohol addiction, Paul McGrath has a place in our list of the Republic of Ireland’s greatest footballers.
The former central back, who had his best club stints at Manchester United and Aston Villa is in a league of his own. McGrath was a titan in Ireland’s historic victory over Italy at the USA 1994 World Cup, stopping the prolific Roberto Baggio from breaking down the Irish defense line, helped him cement his place as a top player.
During his international career filled with the tale of defiance and rebellion, Paul played 83 times for the National team and scored eight goals for the Republic of Ireland.
- Robbie Keane
The Nation’s all-time leading goalscorer and most loyal servants made his international debut in 1998. His over 131 appearance s for the national team has seen him score over 65 goals for the Republic of Ireland.
A true leader, the Irishman although hasn’t won as much as his talent and efforts deserved, will always remain fans favorite anywhere he plays. His goal for the National team against Germany at the 2002 FIFA World Cup is still fresh in the memory of football fans in Ireland. That brilliant goal sent his Nation to the last 16 of the World Cup, with boylesports.com dropping odds for every single match he played in his career.
Due to his Nations failure to qualify for major competitions over the last two decades, the former Tottenham striker hasn’t had the opportunity to prove his worth on the biggest football stages, but has still managed to play in over 10 clubs and has scored against top National teams like Spain, Netherlands, Italy, and German.
- Liam Brady
This attacking midfielder-cum-wingers’ longest club spell was at Arsenal. The creative maestro won two Serie A titles with Italian giants Juventus, before another successful spell at Sampdoria, Inter, and Ascoli.
Undoubtedly Republic of Ireland’s best footwork trickster, Brady’s passing talent laid the foundation for 72 appearances for Ireland from 1975 till 1990.
- Roy Keane
Though Roy’s time representing his Nation was mired with controversy with then-boss Mick McCarthy at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, there’s no denying his extraordinary talent. He played 67 matches for his Nation from 1991 till 2005.
Despite his controversy in 2002, the former Manchester United midfielder will still go down as the best player to ever play for Ireland.
- George Best
The controversial nature of the ex-Manchester United player’s persona off the field meant that he never reached the figures recorded by others on this list, with best scoring only nine goals in 37 matches for Ireland.
Able to play anywhere in the attacking line, his Manchester United career saw him play 470 matches for the club and scored 179 goals in total.
He passed away in 2005, having battled alcohol addiction for much of his playing days.