From fan-favourites to undisputed icons, Ireland has brought us some of the most memorable players in Premier League history, and it’s safe to say that the league might not look the same without those from the Emerald Isle.
Here are 20 of the best Irish players in Premier League history.
PL appearances: 359
Highlight: Directly assisting 5 Premier League goals from throw-ins
In terms of sheer impact on the Premier League, Rory Delap is up there with the best. When you can throw the ball around the world and back with even the shortest of run-ups, you deserve a boatload of credit.
Between 1997 and 2012, the former midfielder managed no less than 359 appearances and 23 goals in the top flight, including a worldie of an overhead kick against Tottenham in 2004.
PL appearances: 215
Highlight: Captaining Aston Villa and Middlesbrough in the Premier League
Andy Townsend’s peak may have come before the formation of the Premier League, having impressed with both Norwich City and Chelsea prior to 1993, but his time in the division wasn’t half bad.
Townsend managed eight seasons in the Premier League, with his best years coming as part of a tricky Aston Villa side. He steered the Villans to a place in the UEFA Cup and also added two League Cups for good measure.
PL appearances: 331*
Highlight: Southampton Goal of the Season 2015
Ever since he first graced the league in 2006, Shane Long has divided opinion. However, when on top form, he can cause problems for any defender around.
Long bagged the fastest goal in Premier League history in April 2019 and played a huge part in creating Sadio Mané’s fastest ever hat-trick four years earlier. Speedy.
*at time of writing
PL appearances: 325
Highlight: Finishing 4th with Everton in 2005
Racking up well over 100 international caps, Kevin Kilbane was consistently reliable throughout his 11-year stay in the top flight.
The versatile midfielder didn’t make too much of an impact on the stat sheet, but you always knew you could rely on him to put in a shift. Sunderland, Everton, Wigan and Hull all benefited from his energy, but his lengthy international career is perhaps his greatest achievement.
PL appearances: 233
Highlight: 43 Premier League goals
Somewhat of a cult hero in the Premier League, powerful forward Jonathan Walters was the definition of reliable during his time in the top flight, which began in 2002 but only took off eight years later.
A real workhorse, Walters spent most of his peak with Stoke City before winding down his career with Burnley, ending with 43 goals and 21 assists in his 233 outings.
PL appearances: 288
Highlight: 2nd-placed Premier League finish 1993
After winning the First Division title with Liverpool, left-back Steve Staunton made a real impact on the Premier League with Aston Villa, helping the Villans push Manchester United to the limit in the early years of the league.
Captain of Ireland at the 2002 World Cup (after Roy Keane stormed out), Staunton’s reputation took a bit of a hit during his time as Ireland manager between 2006 and 2007, but that shouldn’t detract from what was an impressive playing career that spanned three decades.
PL appearances: 236
Highlight: PFA Team of the Year 2002
Only five Irishmen have won the Champions League, and Steve Finnan is one of those. As well as playing a part Liverpool‘s legendary 2005 run, the Limerick born star also won the FA Cup with the Reds a year later.
During his 236 appearances for Fulham, Liverpool and Portsmouth, Finnan established himself as a solid right-back, and a spot in the PFA Team of the Year in his debut season in the top flight was a deserved reward for his performances.
Pub fact: Finnan is the only man to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, all four levels of the EFL and Conference.
PL appearances: 238
Highlight: 28 Premier League goals from full back
For some reason, Ian Harte has garnered comparisons to Lionel Messi from a select group of Ireland and Leeds United fans. Obviously that’s ridiculous, but Harte did have a habit of pulling off some special goals from time to time.
With a wand of a left foot, Harte earned a reputation as a set-piece specialist during his 238 appearances in the Premier League, earning real praise as part of David O’Leary’s youthful Leeds side between 1998 and 2002.
PL appearances: 325
Highlight: 8th most appearances for Leeds United (531)
Harte’s teammate and uncle, Gary Kelly earned a spot in the PFA Team of the Year in 1993/94 thanks to his stunning showings with Leeds United, and he remained one of the division’s most reliable right-backs until Leeds were relegated in 2004.
Kelly was a large part of why Leeds were so good during the 90s, managing a huge 325 appearances before dropping down to the second tier.
PL appearances: 290*
Highlight: PFA Team of the Year 2014
Has an Everton fan ever told you that they signed Seamus Coleman for just £60,000? The Toffees don’t usually mention it that much…
The move turned out to be one of the English top flight’s best ever bargains as Coleman blossomed into one of the Premier League’s finest full backs and has given over a decade of service to the Toffees.
*at time of writing
PL appearances: 377
Highlight: PFA Team of the Year 2001 and 2003
After bursting on to the scene with Tottenham in 1996/97, Stephen Carr enjoyed a fantastic top-flight career which could have stretched to more than his 377 appearances if he had better luck with injuries.
The right-back, who is perhaps most notable for his screamer against Manchester United in late 1999, retired in 2008 after a spell with Newcastle, only to return for Birmingham and claw his way back to the Premier League once more.
PL appearances: 431
Highlight: Four-time Manchester City Player of the Year
When he wasn’t scoring a bazillion own goals, Richard Dunne could usually be found putting his body on the line to win challenge after challenge.
He helped Manchester City retain their place in the top flight and won the club’s Player of the Season award four years in a row, only to be cast aside once the money came rolling in. His spells with Aston Villa and Queens Park Rangers weren’t as memorable, although he did make the PFA Team of the Year in 2010 after helping Villa to ninth.
PL appearances: 250
Highlight: 59 Premier League goals
Having been cast aside by Arsenal, powerful forward Niall Quinn reinvented himself with both Manchester City and particularly Sunderland.
He scored plenty of goals and racked up assists for days as well, but it was his partnership with Kevin Phillips which really set him apart. Philips stole the headlines and deservedly won the European Golden Shoe in 2000, but he wouldn’t have got there if it wasn’t for Quinn’s work as a big man.
PL appearances: 451
Highlight: Most appearances by an Irishman in the Premier League
Shay Given’s 451 Premier League appearances is a record for any Irish player, and that tells you everything you need to know about the former goalkeeper.
He was one of the league’s top performers during his time with Newcastle and a regular in the Team of the Year, before impressing with both Manchester City and Aston Villa towards the end of his career.
PL appearances: 445
Highlight: 5 Premier League titles
When you win five Premier League titles with Manchester United, you pretty much command a place towards the top of these rankings.
John O’Shea constantly fought off competition from some of world football’s biggest names to retain his place at Old Trafford, and his 445 appearances in the league is the highest of any outfield player in Ireland’s history.
PL appearances: 166
Highlight: PFA Player of the Year 1993
Former centre-back Paul McGrath’s Premier League career was shorter than many on this list. He’d already played ten years of top-flight football by the time the division was introduced, but he still managed to hang with the best of them during his five years in the Premier League.
McGrath won the Player’s Player of the Season award in the league’s inaugural campaign as he fired Aston Villa to within touching distance of the title – some fans have described this as the single-greatest season by an Irish player ever – and his last few years were all spent playing at a high level as well.
PL appearances: 392
Highlight: Most Premier League assists for an Irishman (55)
Damien Duff rose to stardom in the Premier League at a rapid rate. He spent just two years in the division with Blackburn Rovers before earning a big-money move to Chelsea, and he never looked back after that.
The winger lifted two league titles before leaving Stamford Bridge, and he went on to shine for both Newcastle and Fulham before heading to Australia in 2014.
PL appearances: 349
Highlight: Top-scoring Irishman of all time in the Premier League
Robbie Keane’s 126 goals in the Premier League see him sit well out in front in the Irish goalscoring charts, and it’s not even close. The striker was an elite talent during his various spells with Coventry, Leeds, Tottenham, Liverpool, West Ham and Aston Villa.
The fact that he won just one League Cup during his time in England is almost hard to believe. His talent makes him a real candidate to sit top of this list, but there’s just a few other players who make a more compelling case.
PL appearances: 328
Highlight: 7 Premier League titles
Leeds didn’t see a lot in a young Denis Irwin, but Sir Alex Ferguson certainly did. The left-back joined Manchester United in 1990 and went on to become one of the greatest defenders the division has ever seen.
Irwin lifted no less than seven Premier League titles with the Red Devils, proving to be one of favourites’ favourite signings of all time. High praise indeed.
PL appearances: 366
Highlight: 7 Premier League titles
Part of the same United side as Irwin, Roy Keane was an utterly spectacular midfielder who was happy to kick you right in the soul if it would win him the ball.
Keane led United to their famous treble in 1998/99 – just three of the 17 trophies he won with the club – and has deservedly gone down as one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots in the Premier League.