Five of the best Irish players in Premier League history - Roy Keane - Manchester United
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Five of the best Irish players in Premier League history

As the Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations continue over Ireland and the wider world, we’ve decided to pay tribute to some of the Irishmen who have lit up the Premier League throughout its history.

Here are five of the best Irish players of the Premier League era.

Paul McGrath

Despite some dodgy knees and well-documented demons, Paul McGrath began the Premier League era as one of the finest footballers in the division.

The defender had been prematurely pushed out of the door at Manchester United in the late eighties, with his powers deemed to be on the wane, a decision which proved foolish as McGrath earned hero status during seven seasons at Aston Villa.

He was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year during the Premier League’s inaugural season in 1992/93, after Aston Villa pushed his former team close in the title race. An outstanding individual campaign was recognised, with McGrath remaining one of just three defenders – alongside John Terry and Virgil van Dijk to have won the PFA award in the Premier League era.

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Nicknamed “God” by the Villa fanbase, He helped The Villans to League Cup successes in 1994 and 1996, the club’s last major honours.

Denis Irwin

Sir Alex Ferguson said Denis Irwin would be the ‘one certainty’ to get into his all-time XI of players managed, some recognition given the talent he coached across more than two decades at Manchester United.

“Honestly, I would say Denis Irwin would be the one certainty to get in the team,” Ferguson said in 2013.

“I called him an eight out of 10. At Highbury in one game, he had a bad pass back in the last minute and [Dennis] Bergkamp came in and scored.

“After the game, the press said, ‘You must be disappointed in that pass back.’ I said, ‘Well, one mistake in 10 years isn’t bad.’ He was an unbelievable player.”

Reliable as they come, the full-back was influential at both ends, defensively sound and a threat from set-pieces. Equally comfortable in either full-back role, Irwin was a manager’s dream and made 515 appearances for the Red Devils.

Roy Keane

The driving force of the most dominant team the Premier League has seen. Roy Keane won seven Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the Champions League among his honours, becoming Manchester United’s most decorated captain.

A combative and domineering force from midfield, he commanded fear and respect in equal measure from both teammates and opponents, while ensuring standards never slipped at Old Trafford. His role in Manchester United’s semi-final win over Juventus en route to the Champions League in 1998/99 is the stuff of club legend, after a selfless second-leg performance in Turin.

Keane’s greatest individual season came the following year, when he was named PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year as the Red Devils defended the title with a then-record 18-point margin from runners-up Arsenal.

Undoubtedly one of the most iconic leaders of the Premier League era and the finest Irish footballer the league has seen.

 Iconic Performances: Roy Keane’s superhuman display v Juventus

Damien Duff

Damien Duff made his name at Blackburn Rovers, helping the former Premier League champions back into the top flight and starring on the wing at Ewood Park. His enterprising football captured the attention of Chelsea, who spent £17m to sign the Irishman as the Roman Abramovich era began at Stamford Bridge.

After an impressive first season, the arrival of Jose Mourinho took Duff’s game to a new level. Alongside Arjen Robben in a 4-3-3 formation, the duo dovetailed in the wide roles to lead the big-spending Blues to back-to-back Premier League titles.

He later had spells at Newcastle United and Fulham, reaching the Europa League final during his debut campaign for the latter in 2010. Duff earned a century of caps for The Boys in Green and boasts the most Premier League assists from an Irish footballer (55).

Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane holds the record as the highest-scoring Irishman in Premier League history and the only player from The Emerald Isle to have breached 100 goals in the division.

A precocious teenage talent at Wolves, Keane’s career took in spells at Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Tottenham and Liverpool at his peak. His best football came in the colours of Spurs, where Keane scored 122 goals across two spells in north London.

Keane was an instinctive finisher who was always on the move, with his cartwheeling, gun-slinging celebration becoming a regular sight on the Premier League stage.

At international level he broke records, becoming the record appearance maker (146) and goalscorer (68) for the Republic of Ireland.

Read – Golazo Merchants: The Dublin baller, Robbie Keane

See more – Granny Rule XI: The best English-born footballers to play for Ireland in each position

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