For such a small part of the world, Ireland has produced a vast number of fantastic football players that have succeeded in big UK clubs and on an international level.
From Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal to Barcelona and Juventus, there are many Irish footballers who have made history for their talent and skills on the pitch. These are some of the greatest Irish footballers (decided by the team at Infogol) to have ever graced the world of football.
A former Arsenal defender, David O’Leary was also the star of the show in sending Ireland through to their first ever quart-final in the World Cup against Romania. His greatest season was between 1992 and ’93 when he played a huge role in the Gunners’ league and cup double, before heading off to join Leeds United.
One of the most naturally talented players to come out of Ireland, Liam Brady played for elite clubs both in England and in Italy. He was commonly a favourite with bookies when it came to football betting due to his incredible skill on the pitch and an unrivalled list of passes.
A competitive and skilled player, Roy Keane had a fiery personality both on and off the pitch and was often labelled as a ‘flawed genius’. Over the course of his career, he played for Manchester United and also at an international level representing Ireland, both of which he enjoyed stints as captain. After a short period playing for Celtic, Keane retired from playing but continued his career in football as a manager.
One of the most famous footballers in history, George Best was known for astounding audiences with his dribbling and control skills. For many years, he was unbeatable in his ability to trick defenders with subtle skills and one of his most famous moments was when he diverted the ball from four defenders 12 yards from goal, hitting the back of the net back in 1971.
Frank Stapleton is best remembered for his time playing for Arsenal and Manchester United, as well as his time playing for the Republic of Ireland. For 10 years, he held the record for being the top scoring player in Ireland, making him a popular bet with punters.
Cork-born Denis Irwin played professionally back in 1983 until 2004, most prominently for Manchester United where he cemented himself as one of the most crucial members of the team. He won several domestic and European trophies between 1990 and 2002 as a defender and remains one of the best footballers to come out of Ireland.
Paul McGrath played as a defender until 1998, until physical injuries put an end to his prolific career. He enjoyed 14 seasons with Manchester United and Aston Villa and was renowned for being a harsh tackler and for his immense ability to read the pitch and how the game would play out. He was also a long-time player for Ireland’s national team and plated in the 1990 and ’94 FIFA World Cups.