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The 25 Best Irish Players Of The Premier League Era

Michael McCarthy
By Michael McCarthy
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Despite a lot of consulting inside and outside of the (virtual) office, this is ultimately still a very subjective list. There's going to be a lot of clamour for the James McCleans and Wes Hoolahans of the world, but we've looked at it purely from the impact on the Premier League itself, not in other club games, or for Ireland.

You're bound to disagree with us for some or all of the list. Please let us know who we've over and underrated in the comments.


25 Best Irish Premier League Players:

25: Rory Delap

The Rory Delap long throw caused absolute chaos when Stoke first got promoted to the Premier League under Tony Pulis. Everyone hated defending it, especially Arsenal, and Rory Delap, who was already 32, suddenly became a household name. Despite that late flourish, Delap always had a better Premier League career than his meagre 11 Irish caps would suggest. At 359, he has the 7th most appearances of any Irish player.

Premier League Clubs: Derby, Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke

Premier League Appearances: 359


Ireland Caps: 11


24: Kenny Cunningham

Irish premier League players


An ever present full-back at Wimbledon before becoming an ever present centre-back at Birmingham, Kenny was Mr. Consistency for over 300 Premier League games in what were two very decent sides at the time.

Premier League Clubs: Wimbledon, Birmingham

Premier League Appearances: 335


Ireland Caps: 72


23: Lee Carsley

Irish premier League players


Carsley's Premier League career lasted from 1996 until 2010. He is best remembered for a brilliant spell with Everton in the mid 2000s, and at that, is probably not given the credit he's due, with most pundits confusing his stellar midfield work with that of fellow baldy Thomas Gravesen.

Premier League Clubs: Derby, Blackburn, Coventry, Everton, Birmingham

Premier League Appearances: 282


Ireland Caps: 40


22: Andy Townsend

Before the Tactics Truck, Townsend was a very decent Premier League midfielder.


While Townsend's Chelsea heyday came before the formation of the Premier League, he had some good years after the league was formed, particularly with Aston Villa. He was a mainstay in the team that won two League Cups and finished as high as fourth in the league. A player who would be probably higher on this list if he'd come around just a few years later.

Premier League Clubs: Chelsea, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough

Premier League Appearances: 215

Ireland Caps: 70


21: Kevin Kilbane

A Premier League career that lasted 11 seasons, Kilbane was almost an ever present in the middle nine of those years, amassing a huge amount of appearances.

While always an important cog to Premier League teams, the 11o cap international only managed 15 goals in his 325 games. According to the stats on Premierleague.com, he scored three with his head, and none with either his right foot, or his left foot. Which begs the question, what did he score his other 12 goals with?

Irish premier League players


Premier League Clubs: Sunderland, Everton, Wigan, Hull

Premier League Appearances: 325

Ireland Caps: 110


20: Kevin Doyle

A relatively short Premier League career, but Doyle scored 37 goals in that time and was one of the more highly thought of Irish players of his era, even being linked with moves to Arsenal and Juventus.

Doyle signed for Reading from Cork City and quickly became the talisman for the exciting Irish trio of Doyle, Long and Hunt at the club.

In 2007, he was nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, losing out to Cesc Fabregas.

Premier League Clubs: Reading, Wolves, Crystal Palace

Premier League Appearances: 164

Ireland Caps: 64

Irish Premier League players


19: Jason McAteer

For his story about Graeme Souness's clock-like scrotum and being chopped down by Roy Keane after Saipan alone, McAteer would make this list. Also a big part of the Roy Evans Liverpool team of the 90s, playing right wing back in a 3-5-2 formation that created a lot of goals and a lot of entertainment. He had a big part to play in probably the most famous match of the Premier League's history.

Premier League Clubs: Bolton, Liverpool, Blackburn, Sunderland

Premier League Appearances: 156

Ireland Caps: 52


18: Stephen Ireland

Before his grandmother issues, Ireland was probably the hottest prospect in Irish football. In 2009, he was named Manchester City player of the year in a team that included Robinho, and was their first season of Middle Eastern riches. He was given a five year contract and it was thought the new City era would include him at the very heart.

While his career in the top division has lasted until 2018, he has never recreated that form which made him one of the more talked about players in the league, something that a lot of people in this list can never claim to have been.

His star burned briefly but brightly.

Premier League Clubs: Man City, Aston Villa, Newcastle, Stoke

Premier League Appearances: 246

Ireland Caps: 6


17: Jonathan Walters

5th most goals in Irish Premier League history, Walters got his 43 goals largely from a workhorse position at Stoke.

Premier League Clubs: Bolton, Stoke, Burnley

Premier League Appearances: 233

Ireland Caps: 54


16. Steve Finnan

After two great Premier League seasons with Fulham, Finnan went on to be Liverpool's first choice right back for a five year spell that included their Champions League win in 2005.

His only goal for Liverpool wasn't bad either.

Premier League Clubs: Fulham, Liverpool, Portsmouth

Premier League Appearances: 236

Ireland Caps: 53


15: Gary Kelly

Irish premier League players

Twice named in the Premier League team of the season during his 200 years at Leeds United, Kelly was a stalwart for the club in their various guises over the years.

Premier League Clubs: Leeds

Premier League Appearances: 325

Ireland Caps: 51


14: Ian Harte

His free kicks were the talk of the Premier League during his time in Leeds. A major weapon from left back on David O'Leary's "Babies", his record of 28 goals (8th all time) and 36 assists (4th all time) make one of the best rounded Irish attacking options in the league's history. And again, he was a full back!

Better than Messi.

Premier League Clubs: Leeds, Sunderland, Reading

Premier League Appearances: 237

Ireland Caps: 63


13: Stephen Carr

Having made his debut in the 1993/94 season, Carr lasted in the Premier League until 2011 as an ever present at Birmingham. Despite a multitude of injuries, he had an incredibly consistent latter career with Newcastle and Birmingham, though perhaps never again catching the fire that made him a star at Spurs, twice earning a place on the Premier League team of the year.


Premier League Clubs: Spurs, Newcastle, Birmingham

Premier League Appearances: 377

Ireland Caps: 44


12: Shane Long

Shane Long's 55 goals are the third most among Irish players in Premier League history, but his form has been patchy over the years, not always nailing down first choice spots at his clubs. Still playing Premier League football this season at 34 before being loaned out to Bournemouth, Long has consistently also consistently found his way back into teams, even after they've tried to replace him. Ralph Hassenhuttl has recalled him numerous times and we wouldn't be shocked to see it again in 2021/22.

Also, he's the fastest player in the Premier League history.

Premier League Clubs: Reading, West Brom, Hull, Southampton

Premier League Appearances: 321

Ireland Caps: 88


11. Richard Dunne: 

Irish premier League players

He was the man who always had to prove himself in England. He was Manchester City's best player for years, but when the money came, they said Richard Dunne doesn't sell shirts. He went to Villa and City's defence fell apart.

Behind only Shay Given and John O'Shea in Irish Premier League appearances, Dunne is very unlucky not to crack the incredibly strong top 10 here.

Premier League Clubs: Everton, Man City, Aston Villa, QPR

Premier League Appearances: 431

Ireland Caps: 80


10. Steve Staunton: 

Aston Villa were Manchester United's main challengers in the first season of the Premier League.. If things had gone differently, how much more famous would Steve Staunton's sweet left peg curler at Old Trafford be right now?

One of Villa's most important players in that era, Staunton's incredible career is sometimes overlooked now due to a disastrous managerial career.

Premier League Clubs: Aston Villa, Liverpool

Premier League Appearances: 288

Ireland Caps: 102


9. Seamus Coleman

Irish premier League players

Coleman has been Ireland's best performing Premier League player for the guts of a decade at this stage and has been a huge presence in an Everton team that has threatened the top 4 on occasion. As captain, he's had a masssive influence on the club, but even at 32, he's still knocking out man of the match performances at right back for the Toffees.

Premier League Clubs: Everton

Premier League Appearances: 299

Ireland Caps: 59


8. Niall Quinn

Also impacted the Premier League as a chairman, a pundit, and a questionable commentator, but Quinn's playing career will be longest remembered. His "good touch for a big man" notwithstanding, Quinn's aerial ability was what set him apart. He provided 37 assists in his PL career, joint second among Irish players, and scored 59 goals, trailing only Robbie Keane.

His most lasting legacy though will probably be as part of one of the great strike partnerships in Premier League history. In 1999/2000, Kevin Phillips scored 30 Premier League goals, with Niall knocking in 14.

Premier League Clubs: Man City, Sunderland

Premier League Appearances: 250

Ireland Caps: 92


7. Shay Given

Given had more Premier League appearances than any other Irish player. The Donegal man enjoyed a long twilight with Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke, but his real impact came at Newcastle, where he spent 12 of his 21 Premier League seasons, and is a bona fide club legend.

Premier League Clubs: Blackburn, Newcastle, Man City, Aston Villa, Stoke

Premier League Appearances: 451

Ireland Caps: 134


6. John O'Shea

The first title winner on the list. O'Shea managed to win the Premier League five times with Manchester United. With an incredible 445 appearances, he's just 6 behind Shay Given, and is the Irish outfielder with the most Premier League appearances.

His ability to hold down a place across the back 4 in one of the greatest teams in English football history was testament to his abilities and a wonderful Premier League career.

He was even a great goalkeeper.

Premier League Clubs: Man United, Sunderland

Premier League Appearances: 445

Ireland Caps: 116


5. Damien Duff

With the most (by some distance) assists of any Irish player (55), Duffer was a banker inside the top 5.

After being Blackburn's driving force dragging them back to the Premier League and respectability after relegation in 1999, Duff was Chelsea's biggest signing in the first year of the Abramovich money. They spent £17 million on him back when that was real money.

After a strong first season, he thrived under Jose Mourinho, with the two wing attack of Duff and Robben being the most lethal in the Premier League. Chelsea would go on to win the Premier League that season, and the year after.

He had a tougher time at Newcastle later in his career, before happily ending his Premier League career banging in crosses for Fulham.

Premier League Clubs: Blackburn, Chelsea, Newcastle, Fulham

Premier League Appearances: 392

Ireland Caps: 100


4. Denis Irwin

The last of an incredible number of fullbacks on this list. The first name on Alex Ferguson's team sheet, his presence on United's left flank was as big as that of Ryan Giggs in the early years of the Premier League.

He won seven titles, the joint-most of any Irish player, and even scored Eric Cantona's favourite United goal.

Premier League Clubs: Man United, Wolves

Premier League Appearances: 328

Ireland Caps: 56


3. Paul McGrath

Dodgy knees and all, McGrath was player of the year in the first Premier League season. Utterly immense for Villa as they went so close to winning the title, it might be the best individual season by any Irish players in the nearly 30 years of the division. His next few years were exceptional too, but his player of the year season alone is enough to get him into the top 3.

Premier League Clubs: Aston Villa, Derby

Premier League Appearances: 166

Ireland Caps: 83


2. Robbie Keane

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126 goals. That number that makes Robbie Keane one of the Premier League's best ever strikers, and the only Irish players to have one of those Sky Sports "100 club" insert programmes about him. He played for a lot of clubs but found his real home at Spurs, where he made famous partnerships with the likes of Kanoute, Berbatov and Defoe during two spells.

Premier League Clubs: (Deep breath) Coventry, Leeds, Spurs, Liverpool, West Ham, Aston Villa.

Premier League Appearances: 349

Ireland Caps: 146


1. Roy Keane


Seven Premier league titles, Premier League winning captain, the driving force behind one of the best club teams ever, PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Year, five time member of the Premier League team of the year, Premier League Hall of Famer, and without doubt, the best Irish player to ever grace the Premier League.

Premier League Clubs: Nottingham Forest, Man United

Premier League Appearances: 366

Ireland Caps: 67


SEE ALSO: The Most Exciting Irish Prospect At Every Premier League Club


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