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The Eclectic Bunch Of Irish Players To Play In The Champions League Since 2010

The Eclectic Bunch Of Irish Players To Play In The Champions League Since 2010
By Eoin Harrington Updated
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There was a time when Irish players could be seen almost every week in the Champions League.

With Roy Keane captaining Manchester United, and Denis Irwin and Steve Finnan starting in victorious final appearances around the turn of the century, it wasn't even just that Irish players were appearing in the competition - they were successful at the highest level.

But, ever since the start of the 2010s, there has been a sharp decline in the number of Irish players involved in European football's flagship competition.

In fact, only 11 Irish players have appeared in the Champions League since 2010. With Liam Scales becoming #11 on that list on Tuesday night for Celtic, we've looked back on an exclusive list of Irish stars from the past decade-and-a-half (or so...)

READ HERE: Ireland Defender Says Team Were Hindered, Not Helped, By Vera Pauw

UEFA Champions League: The 11 Irish players to line out in the competition since 2010

John O'Shea (Manchester United, 2009-10 and 2010-11 - Champions League winner 2007-08)

8 August 2007; John O'Shea in action, Manchester United XI. Glentoran's 125th anniversary celebration, Glentoran v Manchester United XI, The Oval, Belfast, Co. Antrim. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

We'll start with perhaps the most successful of all of the names on this list.

John O'Shea won a Champions League medal with Manchester United in 2008, having come up through the academy at the club, and was in the starting XI when United lost the final a year later to Barcelona in Rome.

He would continue to feature for the club in Europe into the early 2010s. He played half an hour when United were eliminated by Bayern Munich in the 2010 quarter-finals, before his appearances became more limited in 2010-11.

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O'Shea was handed the captain's armband for his final European appearance with Manchester United, as they ran out 4-1 victors in the 2011 Champions League semi-final second leg against FC Schalke 04. He was not included in the squad for the defeat to Barcelona in that year's final.

 

Darron Gibson (Manchester United, 2009-10 and 2010-11)

Another Manchester United player here with former Ireland international Darron Gibson.

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Though Gibson's time as a senior player at the club was largely unremarkable, he did surprisingly contribute goals in two high-stakes games for United in the Champions League.

Bayern Munich would ultimately break hearts at Old Trafford in the 2010 quarter-finals, coming from 3-0 down on the night to muster a 3-2 defeat and progress on away goals - but it had been Gibson's long-range opener that had started United's first-half flurry of goals.

A year later, he was on the scoresheet in the knockout stages once more, scoring in the 4-1 semi-final second-leg victory over FC Schalke 04. Gibson and O'Shea's appearances on that 2011 night mark the last time any Irish player played knockout minutes in the Champions League.

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Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow, 2010-11 and 2012-13)

A regular for Celtic during their Champions League appearances of the noughties, Aiden McGeady moved on to pastures new in Russia for the 2010s.

His first campaign saw him line out for Spartak in the 2010-11 group stages, when the club was landed alongside English champions Chelsea, as well as Marseille and Zilina. Three wins from six games was not enough to secure progression to the knockout stages.

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They would have even worse fortunes when they returned to the competition for 2012-13. Landed in the group of death alongside Barcelona, Celtic, and Benfica, Spartak could only manage a single win from their six games, and finished bottom of their group.

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Robbie Keane (Spurs, 2010-11)

12 July 2007; Robbie Keane, Tottenham Hotspur. Pre Season Friendly, St Patrick's Athletic v Tottenham Hotspur, Richmond Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Robbie Keane scored two goals in five appearances for Liverpool in the 2008-09 Champions League group stages, but it would not be long before he was back with Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs sealed qualification to the Champions League for the 2010-11 season though, by that stage, Keane had fallen down the pecking order at the club behind Peter Crouch, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Jermain Defoe.

He managed a handful of substitute appearances in the group stages, as Spurs qualified for the last 16, before departing on loan for West Ham United. Keane missed Spurs' knockout ties with AC Milan and Real Madrid as a result.

 

Anthony Stokes (Celtic, 2013-14)

10 August 2013; Anthony Stokes, Glasgow Celtic XI, in action against Steven Gerrard, Liverpool XI. Dublin Decider, Liverpool XI v Glasgow Celtic XI, Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
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Anthony Stokes has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons in recent years, but the striker was a regular for Celtic for several seasons after arriving in Glasgow in 2010.

He was injured for most of their 2012-13 Champions League campaign - the season which saw their famous group stage victory over Barcelona at Celtic Park - before making the bench for the last 16 tie with Juventus.

Stokes would go on to play all six group games the following year, but it was a nightmare campaign for Celtic, who were drawn in a horrific group alongside AC Milan, Barcelona, and Ajax, winning one and losing six. Stokes failed to score any Champions League goals.

 

Cillian Sheridan (APOEL Nicosia, 2014-15)

31 August 2010; Cillian Sheridan, Republic of Ireland, in action during squad training ahead of their EURO 2012 Championship Group B Qualifier against Armenia on Friday. Republic of Ireland squad training, Gannon Park, Malahide, Dublin. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

A journeyman of the highest degree, Cillian Sheridan started all six games for APOEL Nicosia in the 2014-15 Champions League group stages.

The Cavan born man has played in Scotland, Bulgaria, Poland, New Zelanad, and Israel over the course of his career, but it was in Cyprus that he tasted European Cup football.

Regrettably, it was a familiar tale when it comes to this list, as APOEL were drawn in a group of death with Ajax, PSG, and eventual champions Barcelona. They managed just one point.

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Eoghan O'Connell (Celtic, 2016-17)

Now with Wrexham, Eoghan O'Connell's sole Champions League appearance ended in rather unfortunate fashion.

O'Connell came off the bench for Celtic in their opening group stage of the 2016-17 competition, a daunting trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona.

By the time O'Connell was introduced off the bench, it was 5-0 to Barcelona, and two goals from Luis Suarez in the closing stages would bring the final score to 7-0. O'Connell did not feature again in the group stage, as Celtic fell at the first hurdle.

 

Caoimhín Kelleher (Liverpool, 2020-21 - Champions League winner 2018-19)

Technically the most recent Irish winner of the Champions League, Cork's Caoimhín Kelleher did not actually play a minute of Liverpool's victorious 2018-19 campaign - though he did pick up a medal.

Caoimhín Kelleher was on the bench for Liverpool for the 2019 Champions League final (Photo: Shutterstock)

Nonetheless, he earned massive plaudits after making his debut during the 2020-21 group stages, during an injury layoff for first choice keeper Alisson Becker. He kept a clean sheet against Erik Ten Hag's Ajax at Anfield, before appearing once again against FC Midtjylland in a 1-1 draw the following week.

He was once again on the bench for the 2022 Champions League final against Real Madrid.

 

Matt Doherty (Spurs, 2022-23)

During a mixed second campaign with Spurs, wing-back Matt Doherty would appear just twice in last season's Champions League group stages. A four-minute cameo off the bench against Marseille in the opening game was followed by a starting role in the 1-1 draw against Sporting Club in the penultimate game of the group stages.

Doherty had departed for a loan spell at Atletico Madrid by the time Spurs took on AC Milan in the last 16.

 

James McCarthy (Celtic, 2022-23)

The most fleeting of all appearances on this list, James McCarthy played just eight minutes of Celtic's 2022-23 Champions League group stage campaign.

The Irish midfielder was subbed in for the closing stages of Celtic's defeat to RB Leipzig in their third group game. Though named on the bench for four of the remaining five group games, McCarthy saw no more game time.

 

Liam Scales (Celtic, 2023-24)

The former Shamrock Rovers centre-back made his Champions League debut on matchday one, starting at centre-back for Celtic against Feyenoord.

It was unfortunately a night to forget for Celtic, as Scales' defensive partner Gustaf Lagerbielke was sent off, as well as substitute Odin Thiago Holm. Scales nonetheless put in a solid performance, despite nine-man Celtic's eventual 2-0 defeat.

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