Monday 25 September 2017

Top 50 Irish players of the Premier League era - 10-1

21 Apr 2001: Roy Keane of Manchester United walks off after being sent-off during the FA Carling Premiership match against Manchester City played at Old Trafford, in Manchester, England. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. \ Mandatory Credit: Gary M Prior/Allsport
21 Apr 2001: Roy Keane of Manchester United walks off after being sent-off during the FA Carling Premiership match against Manchester City played at Old Trafford, in Manchester, England. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. \ Mandatory Credit: Gary M Prior/Allsport

Jack O'Toole

As the Premier League enters its 26th season this weekend, we’ve decided to celebrate its first 25 years by honouring the top 50 Irish players to ever play in the top flight of English football.

The list accounts for a player’s talent, the individual and team success he had in the league, and the impact they had at their respective clubs, hence, why a player like Kevin Moran, who played just two seasons in the Premier League with Blackburn Rovers, is not rated as highly as Kevin Kilbane, who played 11 seasons in the Premier League. The list is not necessarily a reflection of the player’s overall career, but rather the parts of their career that were spent in the the Premier League.

10. Richard Dunne

Dunne broke into the Everton first-team at age 17 and played eight games in his first season with the Toffees. The Dubliner played 10 league games in his first two seasons before cementing himself as the club’s first choice centre-back in the 1998-99 season.

Dunne would move on to Manchester City in 2000 where he played 296 league games for City and won the club’s player of the year award in four consecutive seasons.

He was also voted to the PFA Team of the Year in 2010 after helping guide Aston Villa to a sixth placed finish.

9. John O’Shea

His age has caught up with him over the last few seasons at Sunderland, but O’Shea is still one of the most accomplished Irish players to have ever played in the Premier League.

445 appearances, the second most of any Irish player, five Premier League titles and a host of domestic and European trophies, O’Shea had a glittering Premier League career and played 256 games in nine seasons at Manchester United. His spell at Sunderland was admittedly less impressive, however, he still managed to get to a League Cup final with the Black Cats in 2013.

8. Steve Staunton

After starting out his career at Liverpool, Staunton spent over a decade in the Premier League making 288 appearances with the Reds and Aston Villa.

Although Staunton never won a Premier League medal, he did claim the old First Division title as well as two League Cups along with Andy Townsend and Ray Houghton.

7. Shay Given

Ireland’s all-time leader in Premier League appearances, Given played 451 games over 19 years with Newcastle United, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City.

Despite only keeping 32 clean sheets over his career, Given was twice selected for the PFA Team of the Year and was also awarded Newcastle United’s Player of the Year award in 2005-06.

6. Seamus Coleman

Ireland’s captain and one of the best full-backs in the Premier League over the last few seasons.

Coleman moved to Everton in 2009 and spent his first year on Merseyside on the outskirts of the Toffees first XI, playing only three games after making his debut in a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspurs.

The Dongegal native enjoyed much more success the following season after returning from a brief loan spell with Blackpool, playing 34 matches and scoring four goals from right-back.

A PFA Team of the Year selection in 2013-14 and Everton’s Player’s Player of the Year that same season.

5. Robbie Keane

Ireland’s all-time leading goalscorer in the Premier League with 126 goals in 349 games with Coventry City, Leeds United, Tottenham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and West Ham United.

Keane’s best season saw the Dubliner score 16 goals in 36 games with Tottenham as Martin Jol’s side climbed to a fifth place finish.

A three-time Premier League Player of the month and a three-time Tottenham Hotspur Player of the Year, Keane is the most prolific Irish player in Premier League history.

4. Damien Duff

392 games, 54 goals, 55 assists, Duff is the greatest Irish winger to play in the Premier League.

A prodigious talent at Blackburn Rovers, Duff quickly worked his way into the Lancashire club’s first team and scored 27 goals in 184 league games with Rovers before securing a £17 million move to Chelsea in 2003.

The wily winger won two Premier League titles with Chelsea under Jose Mourinho and was also voted to the UEFA Team of the Year in 2002.

3. Paul McGrath

McGrath had already spent seven years with Manchester United and a further three seasons with Aston Villa by the time the Premier League was introduced in 1992.

10 years after making his debut with United in 1982, McGrath became just the second Irishman after Liam Brady to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.

McGrath played 166 games in the Premier League and won two League Cup medals alongside Staunton, Houghton and Townsend.

2. Denis Irwin

One of the finest footballers Ireland has ever produced. Seven Premier League titles with Manchester United and was selected to two PFA Teams of the Year.

Irwin was one of the best full-backs in the Premier League during the 1990s and enjoyed a glittering 12 years at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson.

Would play 32 games with Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League at the end of his career but will undoubtedly go down as one of the best defenders in Premier League history and second to only our number one for Irish Premier League players.

1. Roy Keane

Undoubtedly Ireland’s greatest ever Premier League player and one of the greatest players in the world during his prime.

Keane captained Manchester United to four Premier League titles and won a further three titles as player, was selected to five PFA Teams of the Year and followed McGrath and Brady as only the third Irishman to win the PFA Players' Player of the Year award.

Holds the record for the most most successful Irish footballer in history alongside Denis Irwin with 19 major trophies but edges his former teammate on our list with his unparalleled five PFA Team of the Year nods landing him the title as Ireland’s best Premier League Player of the first 25 years.

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