Top 50 Irish players of the Premier League era - 50-41
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.
50. Jeff Hendrick - After spending eight years at Derby County working his way up through the Championship club’s various youth, reserve and first teams, Hendrick secured his move to the Premier League in 2016 when Sean Dyche’s Burnley signed the Dubliner for a then club record fee of £10.5 million. The midfielder played 32 games in his first season with the Clarets scoring two goals, one of which was nominated for the Premier League goal of the month, a 25-yard volley in the club’s 3-2 win over Bournemouth.
49. Andy O’Brien - O’Brien may have only been capped 26 times by Ireland between 2001 and 2006, but the Yorkshire native racked up an impressive 280 appearances in the Premier League across 12 consecutive seasons with Bradford City, Newcastle United, Portsmouth and Bolton Wanderers, before finishing up his career with Leeds United and the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS.
48. Darron Gibson - Will be known more for his off-field indiscretions than his on-field accomplishments at this stage of his career, however, Gibson has still played 31 times for Manchester United and won a Premier League title with the Red Devils in the 2010-11 season. Played a further 51 times with Everton before moving to Sunderland last season, where, he has been… an outspoken critic of the squad’s passion for the game and the club.
47. Steven Reid - A versatile and industrious midfielder, Reid was a mainstay at Blackburn Rovers under Graeme Sounness and Mark Hughes with back and knee injuries unfortunately limiting him to just eight appearances over his final two seasons at the Lancashire club. Reid won the BBC Match of the Day's Goal of the Month for December 2005 for his 30 yard volley against Wigan that month and he also scored the goal that secured Blackburn's place in the 2006–07 UEFA Cup, a header that gave Rovers a 1–0 win over Chelsea.
46. Dean Kiely - Will be known to most Irish fans as Shay Given’s deputy at international level, Kiely has played at every level of English football, including nine seasons in the Premier League, most of which were spent with Charlton Athletic, where he was the club’s first choice goalkeeper under Alan Curbishley. Kiely also enjoyed stints at Portsmouth, whom he helped avoid relegation in 2006, and West Bromwich Albion, whom he spent four seasons with before retiring from professional football in 2011.
45. Robbie Brady - After starting his club career with Manchester United, Brady moved to Hull and the championship in 2011 in a bid to gain more gametime after failing to make a single start during his time at Old Trafford. After two seasons at the KC Stadium, Brady made a permanent move to Steve Bruce’s side in 2013 and spent two seasons with the former United captain before moving to Norwich City in 2015, and then Burnley last season in a club record deal of £13 million.
44. Stephen Ward - Ward spent four seasons in the League of Ireland with Bohemians before eventually securing a move to Wolves after a successful trial at the club in 2006. After spending three seasons in the Championship with the Wanderers, Ward was a part of the Wolves side that secured promotion to the Premier League in 2009 and was a first-team regular for the club until they were relegated at the end of the 2011/12 season. Ward regenerated his Premier League career with a move to Burnley in 2014 and enjoyed the best season of his career last year, starting in all but one Premier League game.
43. Gary Breen - Breen was a regular for Coventry City throughout the late 1990s and made 116 appearances for the Sky Blues before moving to West Ham United at the conclusion of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Breen had also attracted some interest from Barcelona and Inter Milan, and was on the verge of signing for the latter until he failed a medical, which ultimately prompted a move to the Hammers. The Irons were relegated in his first season but he found his way back to the Premier League before long where he captained Sunderland to promotion before being released the following season.
42. Rory Delap - Despite only playing 11 times for Ireland in his international career, Delap is a Premier League stalwart with 359 Premier League appearances for Derby County, Southampton, Sunderland and Stoke. Revered for his long throw-ins, Delap has been regarded as the greatest throw-in specialist in Premier League history with former Manchester United and Everton manager David Moyes referring to him as the ‘human sling’, while former England defender Lee Dixon said that the Premier League had never seen a player like Delap in the area.
41. Terry Phelan - After spending five years at Wimbledon, Phelan moved to Manchester City for £2.5 million at the start of the 1992–93 season and equaled the British record transfer fee for a defender as well as equalling the club's record fee. Phelan played 112 games for City before enjoying further stints with Chelsea and Everton.