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The Best Current Footballer From Each Of The 32 Counties

The Best Current Footballer From Each Of The 32 Counties
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton Updated
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Down through the years, the majority of top Irish players seemed to emerge from Dublin. The capital was the lifeblood of football on the island, while Belfast would provide a huge chunk of the talent in Northern Ireland.

That has steadily been changing in recent times, with a larger spread of talent now emerging across the country.

There are players from every county on the island of Ireland currently making their way in the professional game, although some certainly have deeper playing pools than other.

With that being said, here is the best active player from each of Ireland's 32 counties.

The best player from every county in Ireland

Antrim - Jonny Evans (Manchester United)

There is quite a bit of competition for this spot, with the majority of it coming from within the Northern Ireland squad. In saying that, Jonny Evans was the obvious choice.

While he is now 36-years old, he is still a very reliable Premier League defender, making a surprise return to Old Trafford last summer. He has gone on to play a much larger role than anyone expected, making 29 appearances so far this season ahead of this weekend's FA Cup final.



Armagh - Cameron Dummigan (Derry City)

There is nobody of Neil Lennon's calibre from the county in the modern game, with the most eye-catching Armagh talent coming in the form of Derry City defender Cameron Dummigan.

The Lurgan native came through the youth ranks at Burnley, before a four-year spell at Oldham Athletic. He has since carved out a good career in the League of Ireland, impressing massively for Derry City since joining from Dundalk in 2022.



Carlow - Padraig Amond (Waterford)

Having began his career in the League of Ireland and then taking a brief foray in Portugal, Padraig Amond has gone on to carve out quite the career in the lower leagues of English football.

His exploits with Newport County are well known at this stage, with the striker joining National League club Woking in 2022 and going on to score 12 goals in the league last season. He would then join Waterford for the 2024 League of Ireland Premier Division campaign, so far notching five goals in the league.



Cavan - Jake Doyle-Hayes (Hibernian)

Oisín McEntee and Cillian Sheridan were considered here, but Jake Doyle-Hayes has to be the pick after his form for Hibernian in recent times.

The 24-year old struggled with injuries last season, but recovered towards the end of the campaign to help them to a fifth placed finish in the Scottish Premiership. Injuries would severely limit the midfielder's impact this season, but he remains Cavan's best player.



Clare - Barry Cotter (Barnsley)

Ennis native Barry Cotter came through the ranks at Limerick City, eventually moving to Ipswich Town. He would make only a couple of league appearances for the club, spending time on loan at Chelmsford City.

He returned to Irish football with Shamrock Rovers in 2021, before spending the following at St Pat's. Having impressed at Richmond Park, he would be picked up by Barnsley in January of 2023.

He made 35 appearances in League One this season, scoring three goals and registering three assists as the club reached the play-offs.



Cork - Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool)

John Egan has held this title for the last number of years, while Chiedozie Ogbene would step up and claim it for the last year or so.

However, despite Ogbene's form in the Premier League, Caoimhín Kelleher had the best season of the bunch.


The goalkeeper would make 26 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions, including playing a starring role in their victorious Carabao Cup campaign. He also looks primed to claim the no. 1 jersey with Ireland on the back of this form and Gavin Bazunu's injury issues.

With Kelleher likely to earn a move elsewhere this summer, he could keep this spot for the foreseeable future.


Derry - Shane Duffy (Norwich City)

James McClean and Shane Duffy are the two options here, although the Norwich City man is probably just ahead in the pecking order considering he was playing two divisions above his fellow countyman this season.

Duffy would make 40 appearances for the club in all competitions as they reached the play-offs, where they would ultimately come up short.


Donegal - Seamus Coleman (Everton)

Seamus Coleman has occupied this spot since the twilight of Shay Given's career, and while he may be 35-years old, he looks unlikely to relinquish it anytime soon.

He may not be at his physical peak, but the defender remains a hugely important character for both Everton and Ireland.


Down - Josh Magennis (Wigan Athletic)

Bangor native Josh Magennis came through the Cardiff City youth academy, since spending his entire career in either Scottish or English football.

The 33-year old made his debut for Northern Ireland in 2010 and has since racked up 756caps for the nation.


Dublin - Dara O'Shea (Burnley)

As is usually the case, Dublin has a deeper current talent pool than all other counties. Matt Doherty held this spot for the last few years, while Gavin Bazunu, Troy Parrott, Dara O'Shea, and Jason Knight are just some of the young talents that recently emerged from the capital.

Considering Doherty’s lack of club football over the last year or so, we're going to go with Dara O'Shea for now. He was absolutely immense for West Brom last season, captaining the club for most of the campaign. He made a £7million move to Burnley during the summer, and while they would have a poor season in the Premier League, O'Shea impressed at the back at times.

He is also an incredibly consistent performer at international level and it would not be a surprise to see another club in the English top flight make a move for him this summer.


Fermanagh - Michael McGovern (Hearts)

Kyle Lafferty has held this spot for quite some time, although the 35-year old has now dropped well down in terms of playing level and currently plays for Johnston Burgh in the West of Scotland League First Division.

Michael McGovern is not first choice goalkeeper at Hearts, but the 39-year old remains a fixture in their matchday squads.


Galway - Ryan Manning (Southampton)

Aaron Connolly would have occupied this position not so long ago, and while he played well at times for Hull City this season, he has not done enough to regain it just yet.

Ryan Manning made 38 appearances for Swansea City in the Championship last season, drawing plenty of interest from other clubs over the summer. He would go on to join Southampton on a free transfer last summer and played a big role in helping the club to the play-offs.

He will be hoping to help them to the Premier League when they face Leeds United in the play-off final this weekend.


Kerry - Gary O'Neill (Shamrock Rovers)

Options were reasonably limited in Kerry, although Gary O'Neill is certainly an excellent player.

He has carved out a very good career in the League of Ireland, firstly for UCD and now Shamrock Rovers. He has been an important part in Rovers' title wins over the last few seasons.


Kildare - Nathan Collins (Brentford)

There is quite the production line in Kildare at the moment, with Nathan Collins, Andrew Omobamidele, and Mark Travers all coming through the county.

Collins has to be the pick, having recently become the most expensive Irish player of all-time after his £20.5million move to Wolves in 2022. He would go on to break that record for the second successive summer by moving to Brentford for £23.5million in recent times and has excelled at his new club in recent times.

His debut season in London was up and down at times, but the centre back finished with a strong run of form and is only likely to build on this campaign moving forward.


Kilkenny - Sean Maguire (Carlisle United)

Sean Maguire became the first Kilkenny man to play for Ireland since the 1930s when he made his debut back in 2017, going on to earn 11 caps in total since then.

After struggling somewhat at Preston and Coventry City in recent times, he would make the move to Carlisle last summer. He would manage just two goals in 32 League One appearances and has been linked with a move to the League of Ireland in recent weeks.


Laois - Colin Conroy (Treaty United)

There aren't a whole lot of options when it comes to Laois, with Treaty United midfielder the clear choice.

The 21-year old came through the ranks at Bohemians before joining the Limerick club in 2022. He has remained there ever since.



Leitrim - Niall Morahan (Sligo Rovers)

Niall Morahan has become an increasingly important player for Sligo Rovers in recent times. The Leitrim Village native came through the youth ranks at the club and has racked up the appearances in both domestic and European competition over the last few seasons.

He already has 16 league appearances to his name in 2024, every one of them being starts.


Limerick - Dara Costelloe (Dundee, on loan from Burnley)

Anthony Forde held this position for quite a few years, but Dara Costelloe is deserving of the accolade after his recent form. The former Galway United man joined Burnley in 2021, making a handful of league appearances in the Championship last season.

He would then join Bradford City on loan for the second half of the season, before moving to St Johnstone for the current campaign. He would move to Dundee for the second half of the season.

The defender made his Ireland U21 debut earlier last year in a friendly against Ukraine.


Longford - James Abankwah (Udinese)

The first player in this article to ply his trade outside of Ireland or the UK, James Abankwah joined Udinese from St Pat's earlier this year.

The 19-year old lived in a few different counties during his childhood, but it was after his move to Longford that he started to make his way in the game. He was part of their Kennedy Cup team in 2016 before playing for Cherry Orchard, and eventually Pat's.

He was a fixture on the bench for Udinese last season and made two appearances in Serie A towards the end of the campaign.

He joined Charlton Athletic on loan earlier this season, although the move would be cut short due to a lack of playing time. He would be included in the Udinese matchday squad one a few occasions towards the end of the campaign.


Louth - Jimmy Dunne (QPR)

Louth have a history of producing excellent players, with Jimmy Dunne currently the pick of the bunch. The centre back came through the youth ranks at Burnley, before joining QPR in 2021.

He has since gone from strength to strength, starring at Loftus Road despite the team's struggles in recent months. He has yet to make his Ireland debut, although that is something that is likely to change in the near future.


Mayo - Luke McNicholas (Wrexham)

Having impressed massively at Cliftonville and Sligo Rovers this season, it was no surprise to see Belcarra native Luke McNicholas draw interest from British clubs in recent times.

He would go on to make an initial loan move to up and comers Wrexham in December, a deal that was made permanent in January. The 24-year old has yet to make an appearance for the club but will be hoping to force his way into the first team reckoning next season.


Meath - Evan Ferguson (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Darragh Lenihan became the first Meath man ever to feature for Ireland when he made his international debut back in 2018, occupying this spot on the list since then.

However, Evan Ferguson is the clear choice as things stand. The Brighton striker has been nothing short of sensational since making his first team breakthrough, establishing himself as a key contributor at both club and international level despite being only 19-years old.

Ferguson did struggle in the second half of the season, but that is not unexpected from such a young player. He remains the most talented player to emerge from this country in quite some time.


Monaghan - Mark Connolly (Derry City)

Clones man Mark Connolly had a lengthy spell in British football after joining Wolves as a youth player back in 2009, playing for the likes of Crawley Town, Kilmarnock, and Dundee United before returning to Ireland on loan at Dundalk in 2022.

He would be sold to Derry City later that and has since become a key contributor in Ruadhrí Higgins' squad.


Offaly - Edwin Agbaje (Ipswich Town)

Offaly did not have a very deep pool to choose from, with Edenderry native Edwin Agbaje the clear choice.

Having lined out for Shamrock Rovers at underage level, he would join Ipswich Town in 2020, playing for their youth team before impressing on loan at Yeovil Town in the second half of last season. The 19-year old has been capped by Ireland up to U18 level.


Roscommon - Dara McGuinness (Stoke City)

Athlone teenager Dara McGuinness played for both St Pat's and Shamrock Rovers at underage level, joining the latter in 2020. He would go from strength to strength since then, signing for Stoke City on a professional deal in 2022.

He has since been a fixture in their U23 side, scoring five goals for in PL2 this season.

He has been capped by Ireland up to U18 level. He qualifies for the Rossies as he hails from the Roscommon side of Athlone.


Sligo - Johnny Kenny (Shamrock Rovers, on loan from Celtic)

It was a toss up between Johnny Kenny and Liam Kerrigan here, both of whom have made interesting transfer moves in recent times. However, Kerrigan's serious injury last season means that Kenny is the clear choice at the moment.

He joined Celtic from Sligo Rovers in 2022, going on to spend time on loan at Queen's Park. He would join Shamrock Rovers on loan for the 2023 season and has been a key player under Stephen Bradley.

Having linked up wit Rovers once again this season, he already has seven goals to his name in the league.


Tipperary - Lee Grace (Shamrock Rovers)

Shane Long has held this spot for nearly two decades, but considering he seems to be retired from football, it is finally time for Lee Grace to take the mantle.

He has had a very impressive career in the League of Ireland and has been a mainstay in the all conquering Shamrock Rovers side over the last five year or so.


Tyrone - Conor Bradley (Liverpool)

Stuart Dallas held this title for quite a few years, but his recent retirement coupled with Conor Bradley's rise at Liverpool means that he is now the obvious choice.

The 20-year old would make 23 appearances for the club in all competitions, winning a huge number of plaudits while filling in for the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold. He now looks set to be a huge part of the future at Anfield, something that will start next season under new manager Arne Slot.

Bradley has won 15 caps for Northern Ireland at senior level.


Waterford - Jayson Molumby (West Brom)

Jayson Molumby is steadily improving throughout his career. He was a very highly rated youth prospect at Brighton, going on to captain the Ireland U21 side under Stephen Kenny.

While he would be forced to move to West Brom for regular first team football, he has earned 24 caps for Ireland over the last couple of years and has become a mainstay in the side in recent times.


Westmeath - Aidan Keena (Cheltenham Town)

Mullingar native Aidan Keena came through the ranks at St Pat's, being picked by Scottish club Hearts in 2017. He would never quite nail down a spot at the club, moving to Hartlepool and Falkirk before eventually making his way back to the League of Ireland in 2022

The striker was in fantastic form for Sligo Rovers after his return, scoring 19 goals and finishing as the top scorer in the League of Ireland. He would carry that impressive form over to Cheltenham Town after his January move, notching six goals in League One.

However, he would manage just one goal in 41 league appearances this season as the club were relegated.


Wexford - Festy Ebosele (Udinese)

Festy Ebsosele became the first Wexford man to play for Ireland since Kevin Doyle when he made his debut in September, since adding two more caps to his international tally.

The 19-year old had a fantastic season at Derby County in 2021/22, moving to Udinese on a free transfer in the summer of 2022. He would go on to make 17 appearances in Serie A last season, with his playing time increasing quite a bit as the season went on.

This season, he would make 31 appearances in the English top flight.


Wicklow - Liam Scales (Celtic)

Liam Scales has very much made this spot his own in recent times, with his breakthrough at Celtic this season being one of the feel good stories of the campaign from an Irish perspective.

He has impressed at both domestic and continental level in recent months, also making his Ireland debut in October. He now has three caps to his name.

Scales would play a massive role in Celtic's league title winning campaign.

SEE ALSO: In A Memorable Europa League Final, Dublin Played A Starring Role


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