Sunday 22 October 2017

Top 50 Irish players of the Premier League era - 30-21

Leeds United's Ian Harte, left, celebrates with team-mates Zoumana Camara and Stephen McPhail after scoring his sides equalizing goal against Aston Villa. Dublin Tournament Semi-Final, Leeds United v Aston Villa, Tolka Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE *EDI*
Leeds United's Ian Harte, left, celebrates with team-mates Zoumana Camara and Stephen McPhail after scoring his sides equalizing goal against Aston Villa. Dublin Tournament Semi-Final, Leeds United v Aston Villa, Tolka Park, Dublin. Picture credit; Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE *EDI*

Jack O'Toole

As the Premier League prepares to enter its 26th season this weekend, we’ve decided to celebrate its first 25 years this week 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.

30. Phil Babb - Babb was the most expensive defender in Britain when he signed for Liverpool for £3.6 million in September 1994. The London born centre-back would go on to play 128 games for the Reds between 1994 and 1999 before returning to the Premier League with Sunderland in 2002.

29. Shane Long - Long broke into the Premier League with Reading in 2006 where he scored just two goals in 21 games with the Royals. He struggled to find his touch in the first two seasons in England's top flight, scoring just three goals in his next campaign, however, after a couple of years in the Championship he returned a better player in 2011 scoring 16 goals across two seasons with West Brom.

He enjoyed further stints with Hull and Southampton, and scored 10 goals for the Saints under Ronald Koeman, before retreating to more of a bench role under Claude Puel last season.

28. Kevin Doyle -

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Kevin Doyle of Reading celebrates with team mate Noel Hunt after scoring during the Coca Cola Championship match between Reading and Watford at the Madejski Stadium on January 9, 2009 in Reading, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Doyle broke into the Premier League in the same year as Long and Stephen Hunt, however, he enjoyed much more success in his first season compared to Long as he fired in 13 goals in 32 league games en route to an eighth placed finish with Reading.

His second season was not as fruitful, with Doyle bagging just six goals in 36 games as the Royals were relegated, but he would enjoy further success with Wolves in the Premier League where he scored a further 14 goals with the Wanderers.

27. Stephen McPhail - McPhail came through the youth ranks at Leeds United before breaking into the first team under former Arsenal boss George Graham in 1997. The Dubliner was part of a golden generation of Irish players at the club and asserted himself as a first-team regular when he wasn't injured, before eventually moving on to Barnsley and then Cardiff City.

Away from the Premier League, McPhail was involved in the club's 2000–01 UEFA Champions League run and made appearances against the likes of Barcelona and Lazio as Leeds reached the semi-finals of the competition where they lost to Valencia 3-0 on aggregate.

26.  Jason McAteer - After spending the early part of his career with non-league side Marine and then Bolton Wanderers, McAteer secured a dream move to boyhood club Liverpool in 1995 where he played 100 league games for the club before enjoying further stints with Blackburn Rovers and Sunderland.

READ: Top 50 Irish players of the Premier League era - 40-31

25.  James McCarthy - With the exception of last season where he was plagued by a succession of hamstring and groin injuries, McCarthy has played over 20 games in each of the eight seasons he’s been in the Premier League. The Everton midfielder was also apart of Everton’s best ever Premier League side, playing 34 games as the club won 21 matches and amassed a club record 72 points.

24. Matt Holland - A regular for Ipswich and Charlton throughout the 2000s, Holland made 202 Premier League appearances scoring 17 goals and providing 12 assists. He was made club captain in his first season with the Addicks and scored six goals in 38 games as Charlton finished 7th.

23. Jeff Kenna - One of only six Irish players with a Premier League medal, Kenna followed Denis Irwin and Roy Keane as just the third Irishman to win a Premier League medal when he hoisted the Premier League trophy with Blackburn Rovers in 1995. The Dubliner played nine games in Rovers run to the title before going on to play another 183 games for Rovers and Birmingham City.

22. Jon Walters -

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Jonathan Walters of Burnley looks on during the pre season friendly match between Preston North End and Burnley at Deepdale on July 25, 2017 in Preston, England. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)
Now at Burnley, Walters is Stoke City’s all-time leading goalscorer in the Premier League with 43 goals in 226 appearances. Up until last season, Walters had scored over five goals in six consecutive seasons with the Potters and also helped the club to an FA Cup final in his first season at the Britannia.

21. Kenny Cunningham - ‘King Kenny’, as he was affectionately known, played 10 seasons in the Premier League with Wimbledon and Birmingham amassing an impressive 335 career appearances.

Cunningham played 221 games with Wimbledon before moving to Birmingham in 2002 where he won the club’s Player of the Season award in his first year.

The Dubliner formed a solid defensive partnership with England international Matthew Upson and was hailed by manager Steve Bruce after the first few matches of the 2003-2004 season as “on current form ... the best defender in the Premiership.”

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