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13 past big-name footballers who once played in the League of Ireland

Following Damien Duff’s move to Shamrock Rovers this week, we recall other big-name players who have played in the LOI.

DAMIEN DUFF IS by no means the first illustrious name to try his luck in the League of Ireland.

In addition to several members of the current Irish squad starting out in the League of Ireland, the domestic game also has occasionally been a stop-off for the odd legendary footballer, invariably in the twilight of their career…

1. George Best

Best played just three times for Cork Celtic between 1975 and 1976, and had minimal impact before being released by the club after failing to show up for a game.

2. Bobby Charlton

Soccer -  1966 Footballer of the Year  - Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

By 1975-76, Charlton had enjoyed a stellar career at Man United as well as a stint as player-coach of Preston. Like former teammate Best, he made just three League of Ireland appearances for Waterford United, scoring once.

3. Dixie Dean

The legendary English striker had a brief spell at Sligo Rovers towards the end of his career, scoring 10 times in seven appearances.

4. Jimmy Johnstone

One of the famous Lisbon Lions, Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone had a short spell with Shelbourne between 1977 and 1978, appearing nine times in total for the Irish club.

5. Uwe Seeler

The legendary German striker played alongside former teammate, Franz-Josef Hönig, in a one-off match in the League of Ireland for Cork Celtic. The game saw Seeler continue his prolific scoring record, as he netted a brace.

6. Geoff Hurst

Another player who enjoyed a very brief stint at Cork Celtic, with the World Cup winner managing an impressive three goals in three appearances in an eye-catching one-month spell.

7. John Giles

Soccer - Football League Division One - Leeds United Photocall Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Unlike most of the players on this list, John Giles actually spent a sustained period in the League of Ireland, serving as player-manager for Shamrock Rovers between 1977 and 1983, appearing 42 times and scoring 11 goals in the process.

8. Ian Callaghan

The midfielder still has more appearances than anyone else in Liverpool’s history, but failed to enjoy similar longevity with Cork United in 1981, playing just twice in the League of Ireland.

9. Gordon Banks

The legendary English goalkeeper made one appearance for St Patrick’s Athletic towards the end of his career, on loan from Fort Lauderdale Strikers, in 1977. Banks kept a clean sheet as the Saints beat Shamrock Rovers 1-0.

10. Trevor Brooking

The current director of football development in England was an accomplished player in his day, making nearly 50 appearances for his country. However, the West Ham legend ended his career at Cork City, appearing twice for the Irish side.

11. Rodney Marsh

Soccer - World Cup Qualifier - Group Five - England v Wales - England Training Source: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

A crowd favourite due to his goalscoring ability and penchant for flair, an ageing Marsh scored once in his three appearances for Cork Hibernians, before moving on for a much longer and more successful stint at Tampa Bay Rowdies.

12. Peter Lorimer

During his time with Vancouver Whitecaps, Leeds legend Lorimer was sent on loan to UCD, making three appearances in a relatively low-key stint with the Students.

13. Terry McDermott

A three-time European Cup winner with Liverpool, McDermott scored once in his seven appearances for Cork City in 1985, before leaving to join APOEL Nicosia.

And one who – contrary to rumours — didn’t: Socrates

There were rumours that Socrates played for UCD while studying medicine in the college, however the story has since been discredited.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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