Ireland used to have an abundance of our best players playing in the Premier League but that has dropped off a lot in recent years, at the moment though there are a lot of potential in the youth teams of Premier League Clubs and elsewhere, which ybig has covered in this article.
In the past players like Steve Staunton, Dennis Irwin, Phil Babb and Shay Given played with some of the top teams in England, here Michael Fazhouli takes a look at three of the best Irish.
Paul McGrath – Aston Villa
Although McGrath spent time at Manchester United as well, he is most famously known for his football while at Aston Villa. He is certainly the best defender that Ireland has ever had. Enjoying an impressive career, McGrath is also one of only six defenders to have ever won the top prize of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and was an integral member of every team that he represented. Most recently, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk had the honour of receiving the PFA award, McGrath was on a similar level to van Dijk.
From his Villa days he is still known as a “god” at Aston Villa, and they still sing about him even now.
Playing in this modern era, Paul Mcgrath would’ve been worth a small fortune. His style of playing is timeless and current form of the Premier League would suit his game to a tee. He also aided in pulling Aston Villa out of relegation and then took the team to newer heights, during the 1992-93 season. The legend went on to win the League Cup with Aston Villa in 1994 and 1996. With McGrath’s off field issues with chronic alcoholism it’s a wonder how he had such an illustrious career. A bona fide legend forever.
Roy Keane – Manchester United
Although Manchester United have not retained their former glory and greatness in the Premier League today, Keane was part of the Manchester United that we all used to know – skilled and daunting. He was, undoubtedly, the finest Irish player to have played in the top-flight in England. During his career, he won seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League in 1999 (the Treble season). Although Keane had massive falling outs with Alex Ferguson and numerous other coaches, it never affected his performance on the field.
One of his finest moments for the Red Devils came during a run to the Champions League final. He displayed a brilliant captain moment as he scored in Turin against Juventus in their famous 3-2 semi final win. Keane also played for Celtic, following his controversial exit from Old Trafford where he won the SPL title, but that was a mere footnote in an illustrious career.
Robbie Keane – Tottenham Hotspur
Keane was both adored by his fans and the opposing team’s fans – you couldn’t resist admiring his play. He was naturally gifted on the ball, with deft flicks and cheeky finishing skills has him sitting proudly as the highest-scoring Irishman in Premier League history. He started his career with Wolverhampton Wanderers before he was snapped up by Coventry City. An excellent spell with City saw a shock move to Serie A with Inter Milan.
Signed by Leeds United in 2001, Keane spent a full season with the club after which he was signed by Tottenham Hotspur, where he would enjoy the best days of his career, playing alongside some great forwards like, Dimitar Berbatov, Teddy Sheringham and Jermaine Defoe. He scored 122 goals in 306 games in his 6 years at the club.
In 2008 Spurs won the League Cup, which remains the last piece of silverware that Spurs have won. However, Keane was instrumental in the success. Spurs have a habit of coming so close and letting silverware slip from their grasp. Danny Murphy, ex-Spurs star, also commented on how “it’s heartbreaking to come so close to winning it and falling at the final hurdle”. Keane left Spurs for Liverpool in 2008, before returning to Spurs once again the following season. In 2011, Keane joined La Galaxy, in the United States, where he had an illustrious five years there too.