Ultimate XI: Republic of Ireland National Football Team Players
We’re proud that some of the past Republic of Ireland national football team players can be ranked amongst the best in the world.
So it gave us the idea to try and come up with the Best Irish Football XI ever.
And trust us, it wasn’t easy!
We were left in the situation where we just couldn’t fit some of the greatest former Republic of Ireland national football team players.
That’s how tight the competition was for some places.
But as Official Retail Partners of the FAI, we just had to have a go.
Republic of Ireland National Football Team Players (4-1-4-1)
Goalkeeper: Shay Given
Plenty of competition for the number one jersey, but it’s hard to look past Donegal native Given.
The former Newcastle United, Manchester City and Aston Villa star was one of the Premier League’s stand out goalkeepers for two decades and won a FA Cup with Man City in 2011.
Given also made the 2001/02 and the 2005/06 PFA Team of the Year – again showing why he is considered one of the Premier League greats.
He kept 52 Irish clean sheets and 113 in his 451 Premier League appearances.
His cat-like reflex saves were often an act of genius.
Right Back: Seamus Coleman
Another Donegal native on the team and the only modern-day footballer to make the cut and has kept out the likes of Steven Finan and Gary Kelly.
Since signing for Everton from Sligo Rovers in 2009, Coleman has established himself as one of the club’s all-time greats and one of the Premier League’s best ever right backs.
Coleman has crossed paths and kept tabs with some of the best players in world football – Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Eden Hazard to name a few – and has never looked out of place.
After suffering a bad broken leg for Ireland in March 2017, Coleman displayed his typical admirable resolve to get back to his best the following years.
Pacey, stylish and the stamina of a racehorse, Coleman showed all his qualities as he helped Everton to avoid the drop in 2022.
Frank Lampard and Carlo Ancelloti are on record giving the Irishman the very height of praise.
Left Back: Denis Irwin
No more than Coleman, there was some serious competition for this position.
But when all is said and done, Denis Irwin is simply untouchable from an Irish defensive point of view.
Even Steve Staunton and Ian Harte wouldn’t be able to threaten Irwin’s place on this ultimate XI.
The Cork man is best remember for a stellar and trophy laden 12-year career at Manchester United, finishing with seven Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and European Cup Winners.
Plus the Holy Grail – the Champions League in 1999.
Some of you may not know that Irwin is actually naturally right-footed too, but preferred the left back position.
He was like a modern-day attacking full back but with a supreme defensive ability. While his free kicks were sensational too.
The best full back in Premier League history?
Centre Back: Paul McGrath
Any Irish football fan knows how much of an enigma the great Paul McGrath is.
Despite battling knee injuries and alcoholism throughout his career, McGrath is considered one of the all-time greats in Irish football history.
A stylish, tough-tackling centre back, McGrath could also easily mix it up in midfield too.
He is one of only six defenders in history to win the PFA Players Player of the Year award during his Premier League career that was spent at Aston Villa and Manchester United.
His titanic performance against Italy at the World Cup 1994 in the USA stamped in his name forever in the upper echelons of Republic of Ireland national football team players.
One of the real greats.
Centre Back: Richard Dunne
Completing the back four wasn’t easy.
In one breath you could make an argument for John O’Shea whose trophy cabinet speaks for itself, while Steve Staunton is also an obvious choice.
But for us, Richard Dunne gets jersey because on his day, his no-holds-barred defensive style was simply outstanding.
McGrath will have all the poise and Dunne will do the ugly work.
And we don’t mean that as an insult. Dunne was a rock at the back for Manchester City, Everton and Aston Villa.
A former PFA Team of the Year defender, Dunne’s performance against Russa in the Euro 2012 Qualifiers was sensational.
Defensive Midfielder: Roy Keane
The first name on the team sheet and the captain – without question.
Workrate. Aggression. Skill. Fighter. Leader. Winner.
There are few superlatives that won’t describe the former Manchester United legend.
A player who won it all with the biggest club in the world at their pomp and one who was equally feared and renowned worldwide.
Not without his controversy either, namely being sent home from the 2002 World Cup after a falling out with manager Mick McCarthy.
But Keane was pure class and a born winner.
Left Midfield: Damien Duff
At the height of his career, Duff was one of the best left midfielders in world football.
A two-time Premier League winner with Chelsea, Duff tormented defenders in the Premier League for years with his silky dribbling, pace and a keen eye for goal.
Often not given the praise he deserves for his talents, Duff was able to stand out on a newly-rich Chelsea side stacked with stars, under José Mourinho.
He’s now adapted his talents on the field to the coaching side of the game too.
A joy to watch in full flight.
Centre Midfield: Liam Brady
Many people reading this might be more aware of Liam Brady at this stage as an outspoken critic on the RTÉ panel!
However, he is undoubtedly one of the most naturally talented footballers Ireland every produced.
His club career speaks for itself too: Arsenal, Inter Milan, Juventus and West Ham among the clubs he starred for – at a time when Italian football was the envy of the world.
Two Serie A titles and an FA Cup fill his trophy cabinet as well.
As a player he was gifted with amazing footwork and trickery, a world-class passer of the ball and a prolific goal-scorer.
Centre Midfield: Johnny Giles
We’ve opted to play with only one striker to make room for Johnny Giles, because a combination of him and Brady in midfield could easily supply enough for a prolific goal scorer to make hay with.
A former Manchester United and Leeds United star, Giles is arguably the best out-and-out centre midfield Irish player ever.
A low tally of caps compared to the rest of the team, due to the era in which he played, Giles was still a huge favourite with the ‘Boys in Green’.
He then went on to manage Ireland and was hailed for his role there too.
Right Midfield: Ray Houghton
The Scottish born midfielder was versatile and had an unbeatable talent of scoring important goals.
Think England in the 1988 Euros and Italy in the 1994 World Cup, those winning goals are still so fondly remembered today.
Not as naturally talented as some of his teammates on this side, Houghton was an experienced big-game player who was hugely reliable.
His club CV include Fulham, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace and he never let his adopted country down.
Striker: Robbie Keane
A former captain, the top goalscorer in Irish football history and the most capped Irish player of all time, there’s only one Robbie Keane.
‘Keano’ also bagged 126 goals in the Premier League after stints with Coventry, Leeds, Spurs, Liverpool, West Ham and Villa.
An elite goal-scorer, almost an old-school poacher and criminally underrated still to this day.
Scorer of 68 international goals, including that famous, famous strike against Germany in the 2002 World Cup that put Ireland into the last 16.
We have supreme confidence that Keane could lead the line on his own in this team!
And who could forget the famous celebration?
We couldn’t go without giving a mention to the likes of Niall Quinn, Steve Staunton, John O’Shea, Packie Bonner and Frank Stapleton to name a few.
Do you agree or disagree with our selections?
Remember, it is a game of opinions after all and we’d love to hear yours.
So let us know.
Before you go, you might like this blog covering all things Kids Football Training Equipment?