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Best Irish Football Players Ever: 30-21

7 March 2011 35,881 views No Comment Written by Ronan

We’ve reached the second half of GreenScene’s best Irish players of all time list, and today begins the top 30, with 30-21. To qualify players had to be senior Republic of Ireland internationals. Everyone will have their own opinions on who was the best, and who was over- or underrated, so once it’s all over (on Friday 11th March), we’re opening up our own ballot boxes to let you decide, compiling a Readers’ Greatest Ever Republic of Ireland Footballers list.

30. Jim Beglin
Caps: 15
Goals: 0
International Career: 1984-1987
Position: Left Defender
Clubs: Shamrock Rovers, Liverpool, Leeds United, Plymouth Argyle, Blackburn Rovers
Club Stats: 221 games, 3 goals

Were it not for a horrendous leg break in the 1987 Merseyside Derby, left-back Jim Beglin, then just 24 would have gone on for a tremendous career with the Republic of Ireland. A double winner with Liverpool, his career never recovered after the injury, and he received only 15 caps for Ireland. He had become a key member of the Irish team in 1986 World Cup qualifying, particularly impressing in a 3-0 win over Switzerland. His last game in a green jersey came in November 86 against Poland, before he was forced to retire from club football at just 27.

29. Don Givens
Caps: 56
Goals: 19
International Career: 1969-1981
Position: Forward
Clubs: Manchester United, Luton Town, Queens Park Rangers, Birmingham City, Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Neuchatel Xamax
Club Stats: 557 games, 147 goals

The fourth highest Irish goalscorer, Don Givens was the scorer of Ireland’s most famous hat-trick, hitting all three goals against the Soviet Union in 1974. A year later, he went one better, netting four times against Turkey, again in World Cup qualifiers. His international career had gotten off to a great start, scoring on his second appearance (a 2-1 loss to Hungary), and bagging three from his first five games. He later went on to become Irish under 21 boss, and twice became caretaker manager of the senior team (drawing two from three games).

28. Tony Cascarino
Caps: 88
Goals: 19
International Career: 1985-1999
Position: Forward
Clubs: Gillingham, Millwall, Aston Villa, Celtic, Chelsea, Marseille, AS Nancy, Red Star 93
Club Stats: 629 games, 248 goals

A fan favourite for many years “Big Cas” is Ireland’s fourth highest goalscorer along with Don Givens (above). His career began with Gillingham, but later took him to France, where he hit 61 goals in 84 games for Marseille, becoming one of Ireland’s most successful players to play in continental Europe. Strong in the air, he was a key part of Jack Charlton’s system, scoring goals in important qualifiers, and playing at Euro 88, World Cup 90, and World Cup 94.

27. Kevin Kilbane
Caps: 108
Goals: 8
International Career: 1997-Present
Position: Left Midfield
Clubs: Preston North End, West Bromwich Albion, Sunderland, Everton, Wigan Athletic, Hull City, Huddersfield Town
Club Stats: 514 games, 36 goals

Ireland’s most capped outfield player with 108 international appearances is almost a record holder for world football. With 62 consecutive competitive games under his belt, he’s just eight shy of Billy Wright’s record (many of which were home nations tournaments, which no longer count towards the total). Originally a winger, but now playing as a left back under Giovanni Trapattoni, Kevin Kilbane is one of the hardest grafters in the Irish team, earning him the nicknames “Killer” and “Zinedine”.

26. Con Martin
Caps: 30
International Career: 1946-1956
Position: Centre Defender
Clubs: Drumcondra, Glentoran, Leeds United, Aston Villa, Waterford, Dundalk
Club Stats: 328 known games, 22 goals

A former gaelic footballer for Dublin, Con Martin was one of few players to play for both FAI and IFA teams, playing six times for the Northern Ireland side and 30 for the Republic side. Although he played mainly at centre-half, Martin was a true versatility player, even making his Irish debut in goal in 1946 when Ned Courtney was injured against Portugal. In 1950 World Cup qualifiers, he was selected as a forward, scoring twice against Finland and once against Sweden. He also scored the opener from the spot in 1949 at Goodison, helping Ireland to be the first non-UK side to beat England at home.

25. Kevin Sheedy
Caps: 46
Goals: 9
International Career: 1984-1993
Position: Left Midfielder
Clubs: Hereford United, Liverpool, Everton, Newcastle United, Blackpool
Club Stats: 457 games, 92 goals

The first Irish player to put the ball in the net at a World Cup finals, scoring a 72nd minute equaliser against England, Sheedy was one of the stars of the Irish team at Italia 90. He also scored the opening penalty in the shootout against Romania, paving the way for the heroics of Bonner and O’Leary. Although born in Wales, he qualified for Ireland thanks to his Clare-born father, he impressed from the outset, scoring against Malta in his first ever start.

24. Mark Lawrenson
Caps: 39
Goals: 5
International Career: 1977-1987
Position: Centre Defender
Clubs: Preston North End, Brighton & Hove Albion, Liverpool, Barnet, Tampa Bay Rowdies
Club Stats: 487 games, 21 goals

Long before he appeared as a television pundit for BBC’s Match of the Day, Mark Lawrenson was a Liverpool and Ireland hero. After over 150 league games for Brighton, in 1981 Liverpool broke their transfer record to sign the defender for £900,00, where he played 241 league games, lifted 5 league titles and also got his hands on the European Cup. A versatile defender, he was also comfortable in midfield and appeared in the middle of the park under both Eoin Hand and Johnny Giles. In February 1987, he scored the only goal away against Scotland, but unfortunately injury ruled him out of playing in the Euro 88 finals.

23. Noel Cantwell
Caps: 36
Goals: 14
International Career: 1953-1967
Position: Left Defender
Clubs: West Ham United, Manchester United
Club Stats: 371 games, 17 goals

Although typically a left full-back, Noel Cantwell was often deployed as a centre forward for Ireland, helping him notch up fourteen international goals. A star at West Ham, Man Utd boss Matt Busby broke the world record transfer for a defender in 1956 when he paid £29,500 for the Corkman. He captained Manchester United to the FA Cup, and also won two league titles. His 89th minute penalty against Austria in 1963 (as well as a 44th minute equaliser) sent Ireland to the quarter finals of the European Nations’ Cup, Ireland’s best-ever performance at that level. Additionally, he also was capped five times for the Irish cricket team.

22. Charlie Hurley
Caps: 40
Goals: 2
International Career: 1957-1969
Position: Centre Defender
Clubs:Millwall, Sunderland, Bolton Wanderers
Club Stats: 506 games, 28 goals

Named Sunderland’s Player of the Century in 1979 to mark their 100th Anniversary, Charlie Hurley was one of Ireland’s finest defenders. Hurley made his Irish debut in the infamous 1-1 draw against England in 1957, and went on to play another 39 times in green. A sturdy defender, he had great command of the pitch, and was named as captain towards the end of his Irish career. He only scored two international goals, but they both came in the same game, a thumping 4-1 away win in Olso over Norway.

21. Steve Heighway
Caps: 34
Goals: 0
International Career: 1971-1981
Position: Left Midfielder
Clubs: Liverpool, Minnesota Kicks
Club Stats: 359 games, 54 goals

With five league titles, three European Cups, and one UEFA Cup, Liverpool legend Steve Heighway is one of Ireland’s most decorated players. A powerful winger with a great cross, Heighway also had a keen eye for goal. Amazingly, he never scored for Ireland, but was always assured and confident in a green jersey. His best hour came against France in a 1978 World Cup qualifier, where the hosts held on to win 1-0.

60-51: http://greenscene.me/2011/02/best-irish-football-players-ever-60-51/
50-41: http://greenscene.me/2011/03/best-irish-football-players-ever-50-41/
40-31: http://greenscene.me/2011/03/best-irish-football-players-ever-40-31/
30-21: http://greenscene.me/2011/03/best-irish-football-players-ever-30-21/
20-11: http://greenscene.me/2011/03/best-irish-football-players-ever-20-11/
10-01: http://greenscene.me/2011/03/best-irish-football-players-ever-10-01/

Related posts:

  1. Best Irish Football Players Ever: 60-51
  2. Best Irish Football Players Ever: 50-41
  3. Best Irish Football Players Ever: 40-31
  4. Irish players getting consistent football
  5. Irish Players who have had their careers destroyed by injury

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