The Best Current Footballer From Each Of The 32 Counties

By Gary Connaughton

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 (Leicester City)

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 34-years old, he is still a very reliable Premier League defender.

 

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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, joining Derry from Dundalk for the 2022 season.

 

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Carlow - Padraig Amond (Woking)

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 this summer.

 

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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 23-year old made 44 appearances for the club last season.

 

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Clare - Ryan Nolan (Kidderminster Harriers - on loan from Northampton Town)

Once considered a top prospect at Inter Milan, Ryan Nolan's career has not turned out the way it would have hoped. He moved down the Serie C after leaving the San Siro, then moving on to Spanish side Getafe.

After that move failed to work out, he joined Northampton Town earlier this year. He will play on loan at Kidderminster Harriers in the National League next season.

 

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Cork - John Egan (Sheffield United)

There is a huge amount of competition for the Cork spot, with Chiedozie Ogbene, Caoimhín Kelleher, and Adam Idah all having a claim. However, John Egan has the best CV of the bunch both at club and international level.

He is a Premier League level defender, while he has also captained Ireland on a number of occasions under Stephen Kenny.

 

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Derry - Shane Duffy (Brighton & Hove Albion)

James McClean and Shane Duffy are the two options here, although the Brighton man has to be the first choice considering he is a Premier League player.

Duffy's importance to Ireland in recent years cannot be overstated.

 

Donegal - Seamus Coleman (Everton)

Seamus Coleman has occupied this spot since the twilight of Shay Given's career, and while he may be 33-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 31-year old made his debut for Northern Ireland in 2010 and has since racked up 67 caps for the nation.

 

Dublin - Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur)

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

However, Matt Doherty is the obvious selection. He is a starter at a Champions League club and is probably Ireland's most important player under Stephen Kenny when everyone is available.

 

Fermanagh - Kyle Lafferty (Kilmarnock)

Now 34-years old, Kyle Lafferty is still tipping away at a good level. He has taken in stops in Scotland, England, Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, Norway, and Cyprus over the course of an interesting career.

He currently plays for Kilmarnock and has 85 caps and 20 goals for Northern Ireland at senior level.

 

Galway - Ryan Manning (Swansea City)

Aaron Connolly would have occupied this position not so long ago, but his lack of form over the last 12 months or so means that Ryan Manning has overtaken him in the pecking order.

The Swansea City defender made 38 appearances in the Championship last season, and while he has yet to nail down an international spot, the 26-year old has picked up six caps under Stephen Kenny.

 

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 couple of seasons.

 

Kildare - Nathan Collins (Wolves)

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 this month.

 

Kilkenny - Sean Maguire (Preston North End)

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 12 caps in total since then.

While he struggled somewhat at Preston last season, he still has plenty left in the tank at 28-years old.

 

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 19-year old came through the ranks at Shelbourne before joining the Limerick club for the 2022 season.

 

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 couple of seasons.

 

Limerick - Anthony Forde (Oxford United)

Anthony Forde first emerged as a young player at Wolves, becoming one of the youngest Irish players to feature in the Premier League when he made his debut against Chelsea in 2011. He would never quite make the grade at Molineux, although he has carved out an excellent career in the lower leagues.

The Balingarry man has been at Oxford United since 2019, having previously had successful spells at Walsall and Rotherham United.

 

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 summer.

The 18-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 has been part of the Udinese first team during pre-season.

 

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, proving to be one of the most consistent defenders in the Championship last season. He has since earned an Ireland call-up, although the 21-year old has yet to make his international debut.

 

Mayo - Paul Doyle (Dundalk)

Westport man Paul Doyle has impressed since his move to Dundalk for the 2022 campaign, making 22 League of Ireland appearances so far this season. He had previously caught the eye at UCD.

 

Meath - Darragh Lenihan (Middlesbrough)

Remarkably, Darragh Lenihan became the first Meath man ever to feature for Ireland when he made his international debut back in 2018. Jamie McGrath has since joined him in that regard, but the centre back remains the pick for his county.

Lenihan enjoyed arguably his finest season to date in 2021/22 captaining Blackburn Rovers to rave reviews. He would then make his competitive debut for Ireland in the draw against Ukraine, before joining Middlesbrough on a free transfer this summer.

 

Monaghan - Aaron McCarey (Glentoran)

Aaron McCarey started his journey in football with Monaghan United, although he would soon be picked up by Wolves. The goalkeeper made a handful of appearance for the club, although he mostly bounced around the lower leagues on various loan spells.

The 30-year old has been back on the island of Ireland since 2018 and currently plays for Glentoran.

 

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. The 18-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 earlier this month.

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 - Liam Kerrigan (Como)

It was a toss up between Johnny Kenny and Liam Kerrigan here, both of whom have made interesting transfer moves in recent times. Kerrigan gets the nod due to being ahead of Kenny in the Ireland U21 pecking order, scoring for Jim Crawford's side in the win over Montenegro last month.

He made the move to Serie B side Como earlier this month where he will link up with World Cup winner Cesc Fabregas.

 

Tipperary - Shane Long (Reading)

Despite reaching the latter stages of his career, Shane Long is still the top man from the Premier County.

The striker has a massively impressive 88 Ireland caps to his name, recently ending a spell of over a decade as Premier League player by signing for Reading.

 

Tyrone - Stuart Dallas (Leeds United)

Stuart Dallas has proven to be a massively important players for Leeds United since signing for the club in 2015, something that has not changed since their promotion to the Premier League. The Cookstown native played in all 38 games in their return to the division, following it up with 34 appearances last season.

Dallas has 56 caps Northern Ireland caps under his belt.

 

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 14 caps for Ireland over the last couple of years. Still only 22-years old, he should have a massive career ahead of him.

 

Westmeath - Aidan Keena (Sligo Rovers)

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 earlier this year.

The striker has been in fantastic form for Sligo Rovers, scoring 12 goals this season. That includes the winner in their big Europa Conference League qualifier victory at Motherwell last week.

 

Wexford - Festy Ebosele (Udinese)

Kevin Doyle remains the last Wexford man to play for Ireland, but that will change very soon. Festy Ebosele was called up the senior squad for the first time last month, although he did not get any playing time.

The 19-year old had a fantastic season at Derby County in 2021/22, moving to Serie A's Udinese on a free transfer this summer. It will be very intriguing to see how he gets on in Italy.

 

Wicklow - Liam Scales (Aberdeen - On loan from Celtic)

Darren Randolph had occupied this spot for quite some time, but his lack of football over the last 18 months means it is difficult to keep him there.

Liam Scales has had a mixed time at Celtic, but there is no doubting that he is an excellent player. Moving to Aberdeen on loan for the upcoming season, he has already been impressing at Pittodrie and should get plenty of playing time under his belt in the months ahead.

SEE ALSO: Troy Parrott Making Exciting Championship Loan Move

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