Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Republic of Ireland Greatest All-Time Team

Ireland World Cup 1994

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

United Kingdom
Ireland/Northern Ireland combined team,
Northern Ireland,
United Kingdom.
Ireland/Northern Ireland Combined Team 1986 World Cup
English-born players capped by other national teams

If there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be the 23 players I would bring to the tournament. I have also created  an all-time Ireland/Northern Ireland combined team here.

If an All-Time World Cup were to take place, these would be the 23 players I would select for the tournament. Additionally, I have compiled an all-time combined team for Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) came into existence in 1921 when Ireland was divided. They took part in the 1924 Summer Olympics, representing the Irish Free State from 1924 to 1936. Later, in 1937, they adopted the name "Ireland". Concurrently, the Irish Football Association (IFA) also used the name "Ireland" for their national team. From 1937 to 1952, there were two separate teams competing as Ireland, with some players representing both sides. In 1953, the FAI's team became officially known as the Republic of Ireland, while the IFA's team became Northern Ireland.

In 1949, Ireland accomplished a remarkable feat by becoming the first team outside the United Kingdom to defeat England on their home turf. However, it was not until 1986, when Manager Jack Charlton took charge, that Ireland achieved notable success on the international stage. They qualified for their first major tournament in 1988. During the finals in West Germany, Ireland secured a memorable 1-0 victory against England, drew with the Soviet Union, and narrowly lost to the Netherlands. Two years later, they reached the quarterfinals of the 1990 World Cup before being eliminated by the host nation, Italy. Four years later, they gained redemption by defeating Italy and progressing to the second round. In 2002, despite the departure of captain Roy Keane during their time in Saipan, Ireland managed to reach the second round of the tournament.
Ireland World Cup 2002

GK: Shay Given
Shay Given started his career with Celtic in Scotland, but made his professional debut with Blackburn Rovers.  He was remembered for playing with Newcastle United from 1997 to 2009.  He was voted into PFA Team of the Year twice, 2001-2002 and 2005-2006.  He later played for Manchester City, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough F.C. and Stoke.  He earned 126 caps for Ireland. He played in the 2002 World Cup Finals and the European Championship in 2010 and 2016.

GK: Packie Bonner
Packie Bonner played 80 times for Ireland.  He played every tournaments from the European Championship of 1988 to the edition in1996 as Ireland qualified for 5 straight tournaments. He was best remembered for winning the penalty shootout against Romania at 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy.  He spent 20 years playing for Celtics in Scotland. He signed for Celtic on 14 May 1978, becoming Jock Stein's last signing for the Parkhead club.
Packie Bonner vs Romania
GK: Alan Kelly Sr. 
Alan Kelly Sr was capped by Ireland between 1956 and 1973.  He played for Bray Wanderers and Drumcondra in his home country, and most notably for Preston North End in England. He was named Preston's first Player of the Year in 1967–68 He was capped 47 times for the Republic of Ireland, and was the father of Gary Kelly and Alan Kelly Jr., who also became professional football goalkeepers.

RB: John Carey 
John Carey was also a dual internationalist, playing for and captaining both Ireland teams – the FAI XI and the IFA XI. In 1949, he was voted the FWA Footballer of the Year and in the same year captained the FAI XI that defeated England, becoming the first non-UK team to beat England at home.   As a player Carey spent most of his career at Manchester United, where he was team captain from 1946 until he retired as a player in 1953. 

RB: Steve Finnan 
Steve Finnan played 52 internationals for the Republic from his debut in 2000, scoring twice. He played for them at the 2002 World Cup.  He had played all four levels of the English levels.  He is best remembered for his 5 seasons with Liverpool. He is the only player to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, all four levels of the English league football and the Football Conference

CB/DM: Paul McGrath 
Paul McGrath is one of Ireland's greatest ever players.  He played 83 times for Ireland. He appeared at the 1990 and 1994 World Cup Finals, as well as the Euro 1988.  He played for St Patrick's Athletic and then, joined Manchester United in 1982.  He had a run-in with Sir Alex who was the new manager at Manchester United and moved to Aston Villa in 1989 where he won the PFA Player of the Year in 1993. He later played for Derby County and Sheffield United.
Paul McGrath
CB: David O’Leary 
O'Leary made a record of 722 appearance for Arsenal.  For Arsenal, he won the English League, FA Cup and the League Cup, two of each.  He also played briefly with Leeds United at the end of his career. With 68 caps, he represented Ireland at the World Cup Finals in 1990, scoring the winning penalty against Romania in the penalty shootout.

CB: Richard Dunne
Richard Dunne was capped 80 times between 2000 and 2013.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 2002, but did not play.  He played at Euro 2012.  For his club career,  he spent ten years with Manchester City. He moved to Aston Villa in 2009 and then, Queens Park Rangers in 2013.  He won Manchester City's Player of the Year award 4 straight times from 2004 to 2008, first player to win it 4 times.

CB: Mark Lawrenson
Mark Lawrenson was a key defender for Liverpool in the 1980's.  He won one European Cup and 5 league titles. He played for Ireland between 1977 and 1987.  He helped Ireland to qualify for its first ever major tournament in 1988, but an injury prevented him from going to the Finals of the European Championship in 1988. Ireland went on to qualify for the next four tournaments, but he already retired by then.
Mark Lawrenson
LB/CB: Steve Staunton
Steve Staunton was capped 102 times for Ireland.  He was the first footballer to have reached a century of caps for them. He went to the World Cup Finals in 1990 and 1994.  He captained Ireland at the WC Finals in 2002 after the departure of Roy Keane. For his club career, he started his career with Dundalk.  He played mainly for Aston Villa and Liverpool. 

RB/LB: Denis Irwin 
Alex Ferguson considered him his greatest ever signing.  He played over 200 games for Manchester United, winning the Champions' League in 1999 and 7 Premiership titles. He also played for Leeds United and Oldham Athletic, and finished his career with Wolverhampton Wanderers. Irwin was capped by the Republic of Ireland national side 56 times, scoring four goals and featuring in the side that reached the second round (last 16) at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

CM/DM: Roy Keane
Roy Keane was the captain of Manchester United from 1997 to 2005, where he won one Champions' League, 7 Preimer League titles and 4 FA Cups.  He was the PWA Player of the Year in 2000.  At the international level, he had 67 caps.  He played for Ireland at the 1994 World Cup Finals in the USA, but was sent home 4 years later before the start of the World Cup Finals in 2002. He later played for Celtic in Scotland after leaving Manchester United.
Roy Keane
CM/AM: Johnny Giles
Giles started with Manchester United in 1957.  After winning an FA Cup winner's medal under Matt Busby, he moved to Leeds United in 1963 where he played in midfield alongside Billy Bremner under Manager Don Revie. He also played for West Bromwich Albion, where he was the player-manager. He was voted as Ireland's greatest player at the UEFA Jubilee Awards in 2004.  He was capped 59 times.  From 1973 onward, he served as their player-manager.
Johnny Giles
CM: Ronnie Whelan 
Whelan played for Liverpool during the 1980's, where he won the 1983-1984 European Cup and 6 league titles. He was ranked the 30th greatest player for Liverpool.  Whelan finished his career at Southend United, where he was also player-manager.  He was capped 53 times, and played at Euro 1988 and the World Cup Finals in 1990 and 1994 for Ireland.

In 1970, Heighway joined Liverpool FC where he played until 1981.  He belonged to a team that won 4 English League titles and two European Cups.  In 2006, Liverpool's official web site named Heighway 23rd out of 100 Players Who Shook The Kop. He played for Minnesota Kicks for the 1981 season before retiring.  For Ireland, he played 39 times. 

LW/AM: Liam Brady
Liam Brady played over 200 times for Arsenal in the 1980's.  He was the PWA Player of the Year in 1979.  He was one of the few successful Irish players playing outside the UK.  In 1980, he moved to Juventus, where he won two Series A titles in two seasons.  He was replaced by Michel Platini, but he went on to play for Inter Milan and Ascoli in Italy. He made 72 caps for Ireland, but he never went to a major tournament.
Liam Brady
LW: Damien Duff 
Duff won two Premiership titles with Chelsea with Chelsea in  2004–05 and 2005–06.  After four seasons at Stamford Bridge, he left for Newcastle United where he won the 2006 UEFA Intertoto Cup, and then moved on to Fulham, with whom he played in the 2010 UEFA Europa League Final. For Ireland, he was capped 100 times. He was remembered for his performance at World Cup 2002 and captained Ireland at Euro 2012.

RW/CM: Ray Houghton 
Born in Scotland, Ray Houghton was capped 73 times for the Republic.  He was best remembered for scoring the winning goal against England at Euro 1988 and against Italy at the World Cup Finals in 1994.  He was also remembered for his career at Liverpool between 1987 and 1992, where he played with John Aldridge, Peter Beardsley and John Barnes.

RW/FW: Patsy Gallacher 
Patsy Gallacher was nicknamed "Mighty Atom".   He was considered one of the greatest Celtic's players ever.  The 1925 Scottish FA Cup Final was called "the Patsy Gallacher" final after he scored a somersault goal. He played for Falkirk at the end of his career. He played 12 times for IFA (now called Northern Ireland) and one time for FAI (Republic of Ireland) in a game against Spain at the age of 41, the oldest ever debutant for their team.

ST: Frank Stapleton 
Frank Stapleton was Ireland's all-time leading scorer for a decade.  He had 71 caps. He captained Ireland at the European Championship in 1988.  It was Ireland's first major tournament. At the club level, he is best remembered for his time at Arsenal and Manchester United, where he won a single FA Cup for both clubs. He also played in Holland, Belgium and France after he left Manchester United.
Frank Stapleton 
ST:  John Aldridge
John Aldridge is still the 6th highest goal scorer in the history of English football.  He was best remembered with his career at Liverpool from 1987 to 1989. He joined the club as a replacement for Ian Rush.  He linked up with Peter Beardsley and John Barnes to form one of the most exciting attacking lines in the club's history. He had 69 caps for the Republic of Ireland.  He played in Euro 1988, and with 1990 and 1994 World Cup Finals.

ST: Niall Quinn 
Niall Quinn was capped 92 times for the Republic. He was at one point Ireland's All-time leading scorer.  He went to the European Championship in 1988 and two World Cup Finals in 1990 and 2002.  He missed the 1994 World Cup because of an injury. For his club career, he played for Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland.

ST: Robbie Keane 
Robbie Keane is the all-time leading scorer and cap record holder for Ireland.  He went to the World Cup Finals in 2002, and participated at Eyuro 2012 and 2016.  He had played in Italy, Scotland, England, and the USA. Most of his stints were short, including a dream move to Inter Milan.  His most famous stints was with Tottenham Hotspurs, where he won the League Cup in 2008.  At the end of his career, he played in the MLS with LA Galaxy alongside Landon Donovan and David Beckham.
Robbie Keane
Honorable Mention
Kevin Sheedy, Tony Cascarino, William McCrum, Alan Kelly Jr, Darren Randolph, Jim McDonagh, Dean Kiely, Gary Kelly, Stephen Carr, Séamus Coleman, Noel Cantwell, Tony Dunne and Ian Hart, John O'Shea, Shane Long, Micky McCarthy, Conn Martin, Jason McAteer, Stephen Ireland, Charlie Hurley, Kevin Moran, Kevin Kilbane, Steve Heighway, Shay Brennan, Micky McCarthy, Kevin Doyle, Tony Cascarino, Jimmy Dunne, Shane Long.

Squad Explanation
-- This team was created in 2015, but I did an update in October, 2021.  I wrote a better explanation of the team.  I also added plenty of players to Honorable Mentions.
-- Due to the complexity of Irish question, dual international players who played for both the Republic and Northern Ireland between 1908 and 1950 are eligible to be on this team if they were capped by FAI.  Patsy Gallacher and John Carey played for both IFA and FAI.  While a  few players before the 1960's represented both teams, they were the only players selected who played for both teams.
-- Johnny Giles, Liam Brady, Paul McGrath, Roy Keane, and Robbie Keane were unquestionably automatic selections for the team. Denis Irwin, who held a special place in the heart of Sir Alex Ferguson, came very close to being an automatic choice as well.
-- This was the All-Time Best XI voted by fans in a poll organised by FAI in 2020.  The lineup was as followed: Shay Given, Seamus Coleman, Richard Dunne, Paul McGrath, Denis Irvin, Damien Duff, Roy Keane, Liam Brady, Ray Houghton, Niall Quinn and Robbie Keane.
-- Irish Mirror also came up with their greatest ever Best XI in 2018. Shay Given, Seamus Coleman, Richard Dunne, Paul McGrath, Denis Irvin, Damien Duff, Roy Keane, Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton, John Aldridge and Robbie Keane made the starting eleven.
-- IFFHS created Ireland All-Time Best XI.  They were Shay Given, Johnny Carey, Paul McGrath, David O'Leary, Denis Irwin, Damien Duff, Roy Keane, Johnny Giles, Liam Brady, Robbie Keane and Frank Stapleton.
-- The FAI approached Jack Charlton to be their manager in December, 1985. The list of candidates were narrowed down to Bob Paisley, Jack Charlton, John Giles or Liam Tuohy.  Paisley who turned down the same job previously was the favorite for the job. However, Charlton was appointed the manager of Republic's team in February, 1986. He was the first non-Irishman to be appointed to the position. Moreover, he was an Englishman. His first game in charge was on 26 March 1986 against Wales at Lansdowne Road which ended in a 1–0 defeat.
-- Shay Given has suppressed Paddy Bonner in my opinion as the number 1 of all-time for the Republic. The photo of Bonner saving the penalty against Romania in the shootout at the World Cup Finals in 1994 left a herotic image of himself.  However, Given's record in the Premiership spoke for itself.  With 134 caps, Shay Given is also the second most capped player for Ireland.
Shay Given
-- I took Allan Kelly Sr over Alan Kelly Jr, Dean Kiely, Darren Randolph and Jim McDonagh. Some of the other candidates actually played at much higher level than him at the club level, but he was a pioneer in an era when the sport was not popular in Ireland.  His international debut came in 1956 when Ireland beat then World Cup holder West Germany 3-0.  Ireland's  5-1 thrashing by England did set his national team career back. Nevertheless, he was Ireland's most capped goalkeeper before Paddy Bonner broke his record.  It was also an era where fewer international games were played.  He was sometimes mentioned as Ireland's greatest even ahead of Shay Givens and Paddy Bonner.  
-- Johnny Carey was also capped 9 times by IFA, which should make him eligible for my Northern Ireland.  His selection over there might be controversial, but I went strictly by the book.  He was the FWA Player of the Year in 1949. He was selected as one of Football league 100.  He was noted as a rightback, but he could play in many positions.  So I took him as a rightback.  Since I created this team in 2015, Séamus Coleman's status had improved, but Steve Finnan still kept his spot after my review of the team in 2021.  He spent 5 years as a starter with Liverpool while winning a Champions' League in the progress. Meanwhile, Coleman has been a fixture with Everton for over 10 seasons.  He was on the PFA Team of the Year for a year. I also looked into Gary Kelly and Stephen Carr.  Jason McAteer also played as right wingback, but I did not think much of him in this position.  He earned his honorable mention elsewhere.
-- Rightback Gary Kelly is the only player at Leeds to make more than 500 appearances from outside the stewardship of Don Revie.  He made honorable mentions.  He is not the son of Alan Kelly Sr.  Alan Kelly Sr's second son Gary was a goalkeeper for Oldham, but was never capped by Ireland at the senior level.
-- Denis Irvin was a natural rightback, but Sir Alex played him as a leftback for Manchester United due to Gary Neville being on the team.  Neville considered Irvin a better rightback than himself.  He played many times as a rightback for Ireland. However, I put him as a leftback as he was popularly known. Steve Staunton was the first Irish player ever to reach 100 caps. He played in four of the five major competitions that Ireland reached.  Noel Cantwell scored 14 goals for Ireland, which was high for a fullback, but he did play as a center forward.  He was also a record signing for a fullback.  In Manchester United, Tony Dunne was rated higher than Cantwell. While Ian Harte was a star with David O'Leary's Leeds, he did not have a resume to match the others. 
-- Three of the leftbacks in consideration played for Manchester United.  Denis Irvin and Tony Dunne were probably among their three greatest ever for them.  Cantwell played around 120 games for them and captained their FA Cup winning side in 1963.  Rightback Johnny Carey had also played on the left for them.
-- Paul McGrath was an undisputed choice for central defender, and I also had no doubt about David O’Leary. In 2020, the fans voted Richard Dunne as one of their all-time best XI central defenders alongside McGrath in a poll organised by FAI.  That left Kevin Moran, Mark Lawrenson and Charlie Hurley as the candidates for the last spot.  I also put Mick McCarthy on honorable mention.  While Hurley was voted Sunderland's player of the century, in my opinion, Moran and Lawrenson were more renowned figures. Moran had almost twice the number of caps compared to Lawrenson, but the latter achieved greater success at the club level, particularly with Liverpool. Based on his illustrious career with Liverpool, I chose Lawrenson over Moran. Unfortunately, injuries prevented Lawrenson from participating in Euro 1988, and they ultimately led to his retirement around the same time when Jack Charlton's Ireland team was gaining prominence as a formidable force.
-- Paul McGrath, Kevin Moran, Mark Lawrenson and Mick McCarthy were all born between 1956 and 1959. Dunne was about 20 years younger than the players I mentioned.  
Richard Dunne
-- Charlie Hurley is best known for his long career at Sunderland.  He played for them between 1957 and 1969. He was named the Black Cats' "Player of the Century" by their fans on the occasion of the club's centenary in 1979, and then, Millwall's greatest players in 2007.  He ended his playing career at Bolton Wanderers.  He played 40 times for the Republic.  During the era, Ireland was not a strong side, he captained the side with a notable victory over Czechoslovakia in 1967.
-- From 1978 to 1988, Kevin Moran spent over a decade playing for Manchester United, winning two FA Cups.  He joined Sporting de Gijon in 1988. He moved to Blackburn Rovers in 1990 and helped to secure a promotion to the top division.  He was capped 71 times between 1980 and 1994, and he went to Euro 1988 , and the 1990 and 1994 World Cup Finals.  When I started this team, I could not imagine Moran not making it.  He was one of the defenders whom I watched while growing up.
-- John O'Shea could play in multi-positions.  Somehow, I could not find a spot anywhere. He won the Premier League five times. He was probably the most decorated Irish player after Roy Keane. He played 445 times in the Premiership. He is just 6 behind Shay Given. 
-- On the midfield, Roy Keane, Liam Brady and Johnny Giles took three of the spots.  From 1973 to 1980, Johnny Giles was the player-manager for national team.  I never heard of a player-manager for the national team (Sllave Llambi of Albania also managed and played for the national team in the 1940's). Liam Brady is one of the few players from the British Isles who succeeded in playing in the continental Europe.  In fact, only three other players in this team played outside the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Roy Keane needed no introduction.
-- Stephen Ireland was once hailed as a rising star in the Premiership. He was, in fact, named in several Ireland All-Time team, but Ireland's international career fell short of expectations, as he earned only 6 caps. Consequently, he would not be able to secure a place in the team alongside esteemed figures like Liam Brady and Johnny Giles, who are considered irreplaceable in Irish football history. 
-- Con Martin played and captained both Irish national teams. He
played mainly as a center-half, but he literally played in every positions. His stint as a goalkeeper was not a cameo role. He was offered a contract by Manchester United.  He spent a season as Aston Villa's goalkeeper. I put him on honorable mention.
--  Ronnie Whelan gained significant fame primarily for his time at Liverpool. He was voted the 30th greatest player in Liverpool's history. Due to Whelan's impressive achievements, I made the decision to exclude Andy Townsend.  Townsend played 70 times for Ireland.  He went to both World Cup Finals in 1990 and 1994.  He was a key player for both Finals, and was the captain of the team in 1994.  He played for many clubs in England, but most notably with Norwich, Chelsea and Aston Villa. He won won the 1994 and 1996 League Cup with Aston Villa. He captained the 1996 side. On 22 March 2015, Townsend was inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame.
 -- For the left-wing position, my choice was Damien Duff, who had an outstanding performance in the World Cup Finals. His notable contributions on the grandest stage played a significant role in my decision. Additionally, Duff's early success at Chelsea under the ownership of Roman Abramovich further solidified his reputation.  Then, I took Steve Heighway, who was ranked 23rd in the "100 Players Who Shook The Kop poll" for Liverpool FC. Among the other contenders were Joe Haverty, Kevin Sheedy, and Kevin Kilbane. Initially, I couldn't envision this team without Kevin Sheedy, given his illustrious career with Everton. However, my research led me to rank Duff and Heighway ahead of Sheedy in the final selection process.
-- I seriously considered Jason McAteer for the right, but Ray Houghton scored two of the most important goals in Ireland's history.  His name stayed eternal among the Irish fans. Patsy Gallacher could also play on the right flank.
Ray Houghton scored against England at Euro 1988
-- Robbie Keane is the all-time leading scorer and cap record holder for Ireland.  I also took Niall Quinn who was their second highest goal-scorer. He also scored some important goals such as the one against the Netherlands in the 1990 World Cup Finals.
-- Patsy Gallacher only played once for the FAI at the age of 41 because FAI national team did not exist during his prime.  Since he was capped at least once by FAI, he is eligible for this team. However, should I include him into this all-time team by playing just a single cap? I was choosing between him and Tony Cascarino. Cascarino had done more things for the national team. He played over 80 times and went to the World Cup Finals twice. In the end, Gallacher was too famous to be ignored over here.  He was among the greatest Irish players of all-time. 
-- I grew up watching Frank Stapleton while he was playing for Manchester United.  I also watched a lot of John Aldridge. Stapleton was at one point the all-time leading goal scorer for Ireland while John Aldridge is still the 6th highest goal scorer in the history of English football. Tony Cascarino just could not match those records.
-- Tony Cascarino stated in his autobiography that he was adopted and should not have been qualified for the team based upon the "grandfather rule".  For this team, it did not matter.  He played for Ireland and he satisfied my requirement.  
-- Jimmy Dunne scored 41 league goals for Sheffield United in the 1930–31 season, a club record.  It remains the most league goals scored by an Irishman during a single English League season.  He made it to Honorable Mention.

Starting Lineup 
Formation: 4-2-1-3

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