Ireland has gifted many talented and skilful footballers in the past who mainly shined in the English Premier League. During a period, Irish footballers dominated club football as the best players globally. The National Team was also quite good in the 20th century when they participated in world cups. Northern Ireland has competed in three FIFA World Cups, reaching the quarter-final stage in the 1958 and 1982 tournaments. Northern Ireland held the accolade of being the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup Finals from their first appearance in 1958 until 2006 when Trinidad and Tobago qualified for the 2006 World Cup.
Let’s take a look at the top four footballers who were the greatest during their playing careers:
George Best will always top the list of Irish footballers. He is considered one of the best footballers in the world and also he is a Manchester United legend. He was named European Footballer of the Year in 1968 and came sixth in the FIFA Player of the Century vote.
After making his debut aged 17 for Manchester United, he scored 179 goals from 470 appearances over 11 years and was the club’s top goalscorer in the league for five consecutive seasons. He won two League titles and the European Cup with the club.
Roy Keane is one of the hardest footballers who used aggression as the primary tool to play football. He was known for his hardened and brash demeanour.
He is the joint-most successful Irish footballer of all time, having won 19 major trophies in his club career, 17 of which came during his time at Manchester United. Regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, he was named by Pele in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players in 2004.
Liam Brady was a talented attacking midfielder renowned for his left foot and elegant technical skills such as his high-quality passing, vision, and close control, making him an excellent playmaker. He combined these abilities with significant tenacity, an eye for goal from midfield, and accurate penalty-taking. In addition to his footballing ability, Brady also stood out throughout his career for his professionalism. He found success both in England with Arsenal, where he won an FA Cup in 1979, and in Italy with Juventus, winning two Serie A titles.
Robbie Keane is the most capped player and is the top goalscorer of the Irish National Team. Keane began his career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, scoring twice on his first-team debut, aged 17. The following season, he was the club’s leading goalscorer and scored his first international goal for Ireland.
He changed club frequently between 1999 and 2002, breaking transfer fee records, but his brief spells at Inter Milan and Leeds United were unexceptional. He joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2002 and played there for seven and a half years over two spells, amassing 306 appearances and 122 goals across all competitions.