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Dublin: 5°C Friday 4 December 2020

The ultimate power ranking of Irish footballers

Sorry Joe Lapira, but you don’t quite make the cut.

10. Richard Dunne

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

DUNNE’S ENTIRE IRELAND career could probably be summed up by his performance against Russia, in Moscow, in their Euro 2012 qualifier when he left nothing on the field of play. Few greater individual games have ever been played in an Ireland shirt.

9. Johnny Carey

Source: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Carey was Franz Beckenbauer before Der Kaiser ever dreamed of lacing a pair of boots. He also captained the FAI XI that became the first non UK side to beat England at home when they won 2-0 at Goodison Park in 1949.

8. Denis Irwin 

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There were few better full-backs than Irwin at his pomp and it says a lot about Seamus Coleman that the Cork defender is the first name on everyone’s lips when they watch the current marauding Irish full-back in action.

7. Damien Duff

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Whether you believe he has 99 caps for his country or 100, there’s no doubt the effort the diminutive winger put in when wearing the green jersey. The former Blackburn and Chelsea star is easily one of the most technically gifted footballers Ireland has ever produced.

6. Robbie Keane

Source: INPHO

It’s unlikely that Keane’s record of 67 goals will ever be surpassed by another Irish striker and it’s all the more remarkable when you consider the previous record, held by Niall Quinn, was just 21. With more than 140 caps to his name as well, few have served their country better than the LA Galaxy striker.

5. Frank Stapleton 

Source: ©INPHO

Another former Irish record goalscorer, Stapleton was unlucky that his international career was hampered by his age when Jack Charlton came on board and an often uneasy relationship with the former World Cup winner. On pure talent though, he deserves his spot in the top five.

4. Paul McGrath

Source: © INPHO

McGrath’s performance against Roberto Baggio in Giants Stadium at USA 94 probably still gives the Italian striker nightmares. Indeed, such was his comfort on the ball and command of his defence, McGrath at his best was more akin to the type of defender the Azzuri produce than Ireland.

3. Johnny Giles

Source: EMPICS Sport

Like the man in the number one spot, Giles’ reputation for liking a tackle belies his status as one of the best European midfielders of his generation. His ability to read the game and pick out a key pass even when he was surrounded in midfield — as was often the case — were his strongest assets.

2. Liam Brady

Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Brady was cruelly denied the opportunity to play in a major tournament at either Euro 88 or Italia 90 and, to this day, there are many pundits who feel Ireland could have beaten Italy in the World Cup quarter-final had they been able to spring the man who was held in such high-esteem by the hosts from the bench.

1. Roy Keane

Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Keane’s game wasn’t just about reducers and making his mark on the opposition. It was about box-to-box runs, pin-point crosses and an eye for goal with nine in his Ireland career. Because of Saipan, the current assistant manager’s role in almost single-handedly dragging his country to the 2002 World Cup is forgotten, but it shouldn’t be. A finer run of midfield displays you’re unlikely to see.

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