Sport Soccer

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Ireland's best premier league XI

Published 13/08/2011 | 05:00

AS the Premier League season kicks off, a changing of the guard is imminent among the Irish players plying their trade in the top flight.

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The senior members of Giovanni Trapattoni's dressing-room are approaching the end of their careers at the top level, while a new breed like Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy and Ciaran Clark are just embarking on their journeys.

Since the inception of the Premier League in 1992, Irishmen have been prominent, despite the increasing globalisation of the English game.

Indeed, 10 men from these shores have made more than 300 Premier League appearances. Only England has a greater representation on that list. While Trapattoni may now have to look further down the table to find his men, the Irish presence remains high for such a small country. Ahead of the new campaign, Soccer Correspondent Daniel McDonnell selects the Irish XI who have made the most impact on the Premier League in the past 19 seasons.

Shay Given

(Newcastle, Man City, Aston Villa)

The obvious pick between the sticks, with last season's miserable stint at Manchester City his only period of non-injury related inactivity since his move to Newcastle in 1997. He was a busy man with a leaky defence in front of him on Tyneside and, while a switch to City failed to progress as intended. His lengthy contract at Villa Park could keep him in action until the age of 40.

RIGHT-BACK

John O'Shea

(Manchester United, Sunderland)

Plenty of competition in this department, with Steve Finnan, Stephen Carr and Gary Kelly all worthy of mention. Finnan was a late developer, while Carr and Kelly perhaps didn't build on the promise of explosive starts. O'Shea, on the other hand, lasted over a decade at Manchester United and has a collection of medals to show for his efforts.

He played his best football at right-back until sustaining an unusual and costly injury on that cruel night in Paris against France. A new challenge now.

CENTRE-BACK

Paul McGrath

(Aston Villa, Derby)

The legendary McGrath was crowned PFA Player of the Year in the first year of the Premier League, despite Manchester United's historic title win. Enjoyed a fine Indian summer at Aston Villa, and continued onto Derby where -- in tandem with well documented personal difficulties -- he still managed to demonstrate his enduring class.

Richard Dunne

(Everton, Manchester City, Aston Villa)

A difficult choice here. Kevin Moran shone at Blackburn in the first two seasons of the Premier League, while David O'Leary managed one season in front of the Sky cameras with Arsenal before an injury-curtailed spell with Leeds. In reality, they both played their best football in the old Division One. Dunne has fallen foul of some managers, but he was outstanding at Manchester City and voted into the PFA team of the Year in his debut campaign at Aston Villa.

LEFT-BACK

Denis Irwin

(Manchester United, Wolves)

An easy choice. A remarkably consistent performer who is frequently mentioned in debates about Manchester United's greatest ever team. Steady defensively and effective going forward, the Corkman was part of the team which seized control of English football. Picked up seven league winners' medals, and was a fixture in the treble-winning team of 1999.

RIGHT MIDFIELD

Rory Delap

(Derby, Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke)

We're talking impact. Better than Ray Houghton? No, but Houghton only caught the beginning of the Premier League buzz. Jason McAteer is probably best remembered for being part of an underachieving Liverpool team, while the luckless Steven Reid has been dogged by injury.

None of the above caused a stir like Delap did in his revival with Stoke, and his development of the long throw that was talked about around the world and left top managers and defenders scratching their heads. At the age of 35, he's still going, and has proved his versatility across a variety of positions in storied career.

CENTRal MIDFIELD

Andy Townsend

(Chelsea, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough)

A £2m purchase by Aston Villa in 1993, Townsend captained the club during a four-year stint at Villa Park, and was part of the League Cup-winning team in 1994.

Was a consistent presence for the Birmingham club until dropping down a league to join a cash rich Middlesbrough side who came straight back up and consolidated their position in the league in their first season, with the know-how of Townsend apparent.

A subsequent ill-judged stint in ITV's Tactics Truck on 'The Premiership' shouldn't be held against him.

Roy Keane

(Nottingham Forest, Manchester United)

No surprises here. Another seven-time champion, who became the driving force of Alex Ferguson's all-conquering side and inherited iconic status after the retirement of Eric Cantona.

A cruciate injury in 1997 merely made the Cobh man stronger. Demanded the best from those around him and was strong-minded and outspoken enough to divide a country in 2002. Like him or loathe him, you cannot deny his quality.

LEFT MIDFIELD

Damien Duff

(Blackburn, Chelsea, Newcastle, Fulham)

After a thrilling breakthrough at Blackburn, Duff looked set for a truly great career when he was an inspirational part of Chelsea's '04/'05 title success.

However, he was less prominent in collecting a second medal a year later, and when Jose Mourinho allowed him to leave, the erroneous decision was taken to enter the Bermuda Triangle otherwise known as Newcastle. He's erasing memories of that grim stint with a renaissance at Fulham.

STRIKERs

Niall Quinn

(Manchester City, Sunderland)

Played his last game in 2002 after spending the first Premier League decade with Manchester City and Sunderland -- although he lined out for both clubs in the second tier during that period.

Enjoyed the best patch of his career with Sunderland, with his prolific partnership with Kevin Phillips taking the top flight by storm. Kevin Doyle needs a couple more years at the top table to match the Dubliner's achievements.

Robbie Keane

(Coventry, Leeds, Spurs, Liverpool, West Ham)

Joint 10th in the all-time goalscoring list and can aim to move past some of the retired poachers ahead of him if he picks the right move away from Spurs.

The Tallaght man is 27 away from hitting 150 goals, and it will take a while before another Irish forward gets anywhere near that total. A top-half striker rather than a top-four striker, but it shouldn't dim his achievements. A barren spell with West Ham was the exception to his general rule.

Irish Independent

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