Five of the best Irish football players ever

Over the years the Republic of Ireland have struggled to write themselves into the history books of truly elite world football with just a handful of major tournament appearances. That’s despite the fact that, at various times, some of the most talented individuals in the game have donned the famous green shirt.

Instead of storming to the latter stages of tournaments though the nation has found it’s hands tied with the overall blend of quality being softened due to it’s smaller pool of players.

Here we take a look at five of the best players to have represented our beloved nation.


The game of football is about entertainment and when it comes to getting bums off seats there are few who were better than an in his prime Damien Duff. Duff wracked up a century of caps for Ireland including appearances at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2012 where he skippered the side. Duff could operate off either flank and his ability to beat a man saw him rated as one of the best wingers in the Premier League when playing under Jose Mourinho in his first spell at Chelsea.


Given is Ireland’s most capped keeper with 134 appearances and during his time with the Green Army he went to three major tournaments, which is something not many Irish players can claim. During his pomp – through the 2000s – Given was seen as one of the world’s top keepers with his cat like reflexes second to none.


History tells us that, as a rule, any defensive solidity is built on a team unit rather than standout defenders; David O’Leary is an exception to that rule. Even as a youngster O’Leary carried a wise head on his shoulders with all the technical qualities of a modern defender. The ex-Arsenal man was able to read the game exceptionally well and wasn’t afraid to do the old school basics of defending either.

On top of that though, O’Leary could carry the ball out of the backline and start offensive patterns with a range of passing that would rival an NFL quarterback.

If that wasn’t enough, he even notched the winning penalty against Romania in 1990’s World Cup – a strike that has since been voted Ireland’s top sporting moment.


Some people say you can prove anything you want with statistics. That might be true but it’s practically impossible to argue that Robbie Keane isn’t the greatest goal scorer ever to play for Ireland.

Keane, who was born in Tallaght, was captain for a decade and part of the senior team for a total of 18 years and during that time he made a record 146 appearances and scored 68 goals to make him the all-time leading scorer. Even if he declined in the latter years, in his prime he was a striker with enough pace to compete with a stallion among the Kentucky Derby contenders.

Keane is still regarded as a hero at North London, where he had his most successful spell with Tottenham. Possibly the best striker in their recent history, until a certain Harry Kane came along.


Forget Saipan, in fact, forget all of his off the field outbursts. Keane is one of the greatest midfielders of all time and although everyone raves about his ability to ‘put a foot in’ his true quality, aside from leadership, was the way he would not only win possession but his ability to then always look forwards with the ball.

During his international career, the ex-Manchester United legend made 67 appearances and is widely regarded as being the player who dragged the rest of the squads standards up another level.

Saipan might be a stain on Keane’s playing career but without him it’s quite feasible the Green Army would never have even been there. Of course, Keane will wear the skipper’s armband too.

There you have it, five players that pulled on the Republic jersey who, quite frankly, would have not looked out of place in any team in the world.