The best League of Ireland 11 who went on to have successful careers in England
Over the years, the League of Ireland has been vital for the development of Irish players who want to take that next step. Many who have done so have also gone on to line out for the national side.
So, it got us thinking, with the many players that have made the jump from Ireland to England, we have decided to try and make an all-time League of Ireland eleven made up of players who have made the trip across the water.
Here's what we've come up with.
GK: David Forde (Derry City/Galway United)
Born in Galway, David Forde started his senior career at local club Galway United before leaving for Welsh side Barry Town and then West Ham. A lack of game time at the Hammers prompted a switch back to Derry City in the League of Ireland before a permanent deal to back Galway United in 2004. He returned to Derry afterwards between 2005 and 2006.
His second spell at Derry was the catalyst for his move to Cardiff City in 2007. However, a lack of starting opportunities saw the switch to Millwall where he stayed between 2008 to 2017 making 299 appearances for The Lions, including helping them to promotion to the Championship in 2010.
It wasn’t until 2011 when the Galway man finally got his chance on the international stage becoming Ireland’s oldest debutant against Northern Ireland in the Carling Nations Cup he held the number one jersey for the next number of years until 2016 masking 24 caps for Ireland at the time of writing this.
He currently plays for Cambridge United League Two
RB: Seamus Coleman (Sligo Rovers)
The Everton captain is one of the best players to come out of the League of Ireland over the last number of years, with him learning his trade at Sligo Rovers in three years between 2006-09.
In January 2009, Coleman joined the Toffees for a modest £60,000, a stunning piece of business considering his performances on Merseyside. A loan followed to Blackpool in 2010 where he was involved in The Seasiders' promotion to the top-flight that season.
Coleman has been ever-present in Everton’s first team over the last eight years while Martin O'Neill rewarded his progress with the Ireland captaincy.
CB: Paul McGrath (St. Patrick's Athletic)
It's often overlooked but, before enjoying a glittering career with the likes of Manchester United and Aston Villa, McGrath played down at Richmond Park for a season in 1981-1982 before Ron Atkinson took him to Old Trafford.
His time at Aston Villa was one to remember for the defender as he is regarded as one of the club’s greatest ever players by fans and former managers alike, forming fantastic partnerships with the likes of Steve Staunton, Ugo Ehiogu and Gareth Southgate at the heart of the defence. He won two League Cups with Villa.
McGrath retired from the game in 1997 after leaving Sheffield United. He currently resides in County Wexford.
CB: Steve Staunton (Dundalk)
Before turning out for Liverpool and Aston Villa, Steve Staunton started out at his local side Dundalk in the 1985-1986 League of Ireland season.
In September 1986, a 17-year-old Staunton was bought by Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool for just £20,000. It took the Louth native nearly two seasons to cement his place with the Reds. He made his debut in the 1987-88 season against Tottenham and proceeded to become a regular in the first team, clinching the FA Cup in 1989 and a league title in 1990.
In 1991, he moved to Aston Villa and formed a brilliant partnership with Paul McGrath at the heart of the defence, winning two league cups during his time in Birmingham.
LB: Stephen Ward (Bohemians)
Even though he played as a striker during his time at Bohemians, Ward will get the nod at full-back since that’s where he has played for the majority of the time in England and for Ireland.
Ward made 93 appearances for The Gypsies between 2003 to 2007, scoring 26 goals.
He moved to Wolves after a successful trial in 2007 with Bohemians receiving €100,000 for his signature it was then he started gradually moving down the field more due to injuries then anything with the start of the 2008-2009 campaign being the start of his time at the left-back spot where he has now made it his own for Ireland.
After Wolves, Ward signed for Burnley in 2014 and has established himself as a vital part to Sean Dyche’s team, amassing 86 appearances and is now part of a strong Irish contingent there with the likes of Robbie Brady, Kevin Long, and Jeff Hendrick.
RM: Daryl Horgan (Dundalk)
The Galway man is the most recent player in this team to get a move to England, joining Preston in January 2017.
Horgan began his career at Salthill Devon in the Irish second-tier before moving to Sligo Rovers in 2011 after a successful trial, before making an impact down at Cork City between 2011-13, helping The Leesiders get promoted back to the Premier Division during his spell there.
He signed for Dundalk in 2013 and didn't look back, playing a massive part in The Lilywhites getting to the Champions League play-off round as well as clinching a hat-trick of league titles.
The winger has only won two caps for Ireland but we should expect to see Horgan much more involved with Ireland over the next couple of years.
CM: Roy Keane (Cobh Ramblers)
Possibly another surprise inclusion is Roy Keane, who spent one season with Cobh Ramblers in 1989-1990.
After a solitary season in Ireland, he was snapped up by Nottingham Forest in 1990, where his commanding displays earned him a move to Manchester United.
At Old Trafford, the Irishman became one of the club's greatest ever captains, winning seven Premier League titles - five as captain - as well as four FA Cups and a Champions League.
He also earned 67 caps for the Republic of Ireland, playing in one World Cup in 1994 before being handed the captain’s armband in 1997 when Mick McCarthy got the job. His most infamous moment with Ireland was in the 2002 World Cup when he went home after an altercation with McCarthy at a team meeting, stemming from Keane's dissatisfaction with the team's pre-tournament preparations.
CM: Wes Hoolahan (Shelbourne)
The recently retired Irish international has always been a fan favourite with the fans, with tributes aplenty coming to the fore after his announcement.
Hoolahan’s League of Ireland career was at Shelbourne between 2001-05, winning three titles while being named young player of the year for the 2002/03 season.
He then joined Scottish side Livingston for a season before moving to Blackpool, where he was a regular starter in helping them achieve promotion to the Premier League.
He joined Norwich City in 2008, where he is still playing as a cult favourite among the Carrow Road faithful.
His international career didn’t really take off until the arrival of Martin O’Neill in 2013. His two best moments in an Ireland shirt came at Euro 2016 when he scored against Sweden and setting up Robbie Brady’s winner against Italy which fired the country into the last 16 of the competition.
LM: James McClean (Derry City)
McClean signed for Derry City in 2008. However, in 2010, the Candystripes were relegated to the First Division after being found guilty of holding unofficial contracts with players. McClean turned down opportunities to go across the water and helped Derry get back up to the Premier Division at the first attempt.
The following campaign was McClean’s best with Derry as he helped them to a third-placed finish before signing for Sunderland for £350,000 in 2011.
McClean played in 36 league games in the 2011/12 season but left the club for Wigan before joining West Brom in 2015.
The Creggan native has earned 57 Ireland caps, participating at two European Championships while popping up with vital goals against the likes of Austria and most recently Wales to send Ireland to the World Cup play-offs.
ST: Shane Long (Cork City)
The first of two Cork City players leading the line is Tipperary-born Shane Long, who played for The Leesiders between 2004 and 2005, making just two appearances before making the switch to Reading in 2005.
After struggling at first to adapt to the English game Long, had a fine 2010-2011 season, scoring 21 goals in the league as the Royals reached the play-off final.
After seven years at Reading, Long took the step up to Premier League level once again and has been there ever since playing for the likes of West Brom, Hull City and Southampton with his best tally in the league during that time being ten.
ST: Kevin Doyle (Cork City/ St.Patrick’s Athletic)
The Wexford native started his League of Ireland career at St. Patrick’s Athletic, making a handful of appearance’s under Pat Dolan who he followed to Cork City, hitting the ground running there with a 25-goal haul in his first season.
Doyle won a League of Ireland winner’s medal in 2005 before heading off to Reading that summer. Opportunities were hard to come by for the physical striker but injuries opened the door to him and soon became a regular in the side, scoring 18 goals in the league as Reading won the title with a record 106 points.
After leaving in 2009, he made the switch to Mick McCarthy’s Wolves, where he spent six years. Doyle retired in September 2017 following medical advice after suffering from repeated headaches and concussions.
This article was written by Sam McKeever.