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The Most Famous


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This page contains a list of the greatest Irish Soccer Players. The pantheon dataset contains 16,880 Soccer Players, 67 of which were born in Ireland. This makes Ireland the birth place of the 47th most number of Soccer Players behind Senegal and Slovenia.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Irish Soccer Players of all time. This list of famous Irish Soccer Players is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Irish Soccer Players.

Photo of Roy Keane

1. Roy Keane (1971 - )

With an HPI of 51.62, Roy Keane is the most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 53 different languages on wikipedia.

Roy Maurice Keane (born 10 August 1971) is an Irish football pundit, former coach and former professional player. He is the joint most successful Irish footballer of all time, having won 19 major trophies in his club career, 17 of which came during his time at English club Manchester United. Regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players in 2004. Noted for his hardened and brash demeanour, he was ranked at No. 11 on The Times' list of the 50 "hardest" footballers in history in 2007. Keane was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2021.In his 18-year playing career, Keane played for Cobh Ramblers, Nottingham Forest, and Manchester United before ending his career at Celtic. He was a dominating box-to-box midfielder noted for his aggressive and highly competitive style of play, an attitude that helped him excel as captain of Manchester United from 1997 until his departure in 2005. Keane helped United achieve sustained success during his 12 years at the club. He then signed for Celtic, where he won a domestic double before he retired as a player in 2006. Keane played at the international level for the Republic of Ireland over 14 years, most of which he spent as captain. At the 1994 FIFA World Cup, he played in every Republic of Ireland game. He was sent home from the 2002 FIFA World Cup after a dispute with national coach Mick McCarthy over the team's training facilities. Keane began his management career at Sunderland shortly after his retirement as a player and took the club from 23rd position in the Football League Championship, in late August, to win the division title and gain promotion to the Premier League. He resigned in December 2008, and from April 2009 to January 2011, he was manager of Championship club Ipswich Town. In November 2013, he was appointed assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland national team by manager Martin O'Neill, a role he held until 2018. He would also have short assistant manager spells at Aston Villa in 2014 and Nottingham Forest in 2019. Keane has also worked as a studio analyst for British channels ITV's and Sky Sports football coverage.

Photo of Robbie Keane

2. Robbie Keane (1980 - )

With an HPI of 47.43, Robbie Keane is the 2nd most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.

Robert David Keane (born 8 July 1980) is an Irish professional football coach and former player who played as a striker. Keane served as captain of the Republic of Ireland from March 2006 until his international retirement in August 2016. Keane is the most capped player and is the top goalscorer in the team's history. He is the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv.Keane began his career at Wolverhampton Wanderers, scoring twice on his first-team debut aged 17. The following season, he was the club's leading goalscorer and scored his first international goal for Ireland. He changed club frequently between 1999 and 2002, breaking transfer fee records, but his brief spells at Inter Milan and Leeds United were unexceptional. He joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2002 and played there for seven and a half years over two spells, amassing 306 appearances and 122 goals across all competitions. The 2007–08 season was the most fruitful of his career as he set a career record of 23 goals in a season, including a landmark 100th competitive goal, and won his first senior honour (the League Cup). Keane moved to Liverpool in July 2008 but he spent only six months at the club before returning to Tottenham, where he was made first team captain. In January 2010, he moved on loan to Scottish Premier League side Celtic for the rest of the season, and spent the second half of the following season loaned to West Ham United. He left Tottenham for LA Galaxy in 2011, and in January 2012 went to Aston Villa on a two-month loan during the Major League Soccer (MLS) off-season. He departed LA Galaxy in 2016 having scored 104 goals across six seasons, before a short stint with Indian club ATK. Keane announced his retirement from professional football in November 2018. In total, he scored 126 Premier League goals for six different clubs, which ranks him as the 15th-most successful goalscorer in the history of the Premier League. Widely regarded as one of the best Irish players of all time, Keane scored 68 goals for the Republic of Ireland national team over an 18-year international career, making him the all-time record Irish scorer. His 146 caps is also an Irish record. Keane is the joint fifth-highest European international goalscorer of all time, and the only player in the history of world football to have scored at least one international goal in 19 consecutive years. Keane was the Republic of Ireland's top scorer at the 2002 FIFA World Cup with three goals as they reached the last 16, and also played at UEFA Euro 2012 and UEFA Euro 2016. Throughout his club and international career he was known for his goal celebration where he performed a cartwheel followed by a forward roll.After announcing his retirement from playing, Keane began his coaching career with the Ireland senior team as assistant manager under Mick McCarthy's management setup in November 2018. He also took on the role of assistant manager at Championship club Middlesbrough in 2019, with his former teammate Jonathan Woodgate as manager. He left both roles in 2020. He became the head coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv in June 2023.

Photo of Arthur Johnson

3. Arthur Johnson (1879 - 1920)

With an HPI of 44.92, Arthur Johnson is the 3rd most famous Irish Soccer Player.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Arthur Vere Scott Johnson (12 April 1879 – 23 May 1929) was an Irish coach and footballer who played as both a forward and goalkeeper for Madrid FC. He was one of the most important figures in the amateur beginnings of Real Madrid CF, since it was the knowledge that he brought from a more advanced football in England that helped the club to have a rapid sporting growth in its early years, thus being one of the main architects of the foundations that saw the club win its first titles and become one of the best teams in the country in the early 20th century. Johnson was also a historic player of Real Madrid, having been part of the first-ever team fielded by them in 1902 and then serving as the club's very first coach for ten years, between 1910 until 1920.

Photo of Willoughby Hamilton

4. Willoughby Hamilton (1864 - 1943)

With an HPI of 44.88, Willoughby Hamilton is the 4th most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Willoughby Hamilton (born as James Willoughby Hamilton; 9 December 1864 – 27 September 1943) was a co-world No. 1 Irish male tennis player, a footballer and international badminton player.

Photo of Denis Irwin

5. Denis Irwin (1965 - )

With an HPI of 44.75, Denis Irwin is the 5th most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.

Joseph Denis Irwin (born 31 October 1965) is an Irish former professional footballer and sports television presenter. As a player, he played as a full-back from 1983 to 2004. Irwin is best known for his long and successful stint at Manchester United, where he established himself as one of the most important players in the United team that won a host of domestic and European trophies in his time there between 1990 and 2002. He has been regarded by Alex Ferguson as, pound for pound, his greatest ever signing. Earlier in his career he played for Leeds United and then Oldham Athletic, and finished his career with a two-year spell at Wolverhampton Wanderers, the club he supported as a child.Irwin was capped by the Republic of Ireland national side 56 times, scoring four goals and featuring in the side that reached the second round (last 16) at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. Irwin is the joint most successful Irish footballer in history, a record he shares with fellow Manchester United stalwart Roy Keane, having won 19 trophies in his career.

Photo of John O'Shea

6. John O'Shea (1981 - )

With an HPI of 44.62, John O'Shea is the 6th most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 55 different languages.

John Francis O'Shea (; born 30 April 1981) is an Irish professional football coach and former player. He was known for his versatility in playing several positions on either side of the pitch or the centre.Born in Waterford, O'Shea joined Manchester United when he was 17. He spent loan spells at AFC Bournemouth and Royal Antwerp before establishing himself in the Manchester United first team, going on to make 393 appearances and scoring 15 times in all competitions across 12 seasons. O'Shea won 14 trophies at United; five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two Football League Cups, four FA Community Shields, the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup. He is one of the most decorated Irish footballers of all time, with only Denis Irwin, Roy Keane, Steve Heighway and Ronnie Whelan having accrued more honours. He joined Sunderland in July 2011. Having played 256 times for the Wearside club and scoring four goals, he signed for Championship side Reading in July 2018 until his retirement in May 2019. He joined the Reading coaching staff that summer, before leaving in the summer of 2021. O'Shea made his Republic of Ireland debut in 2001 against Croatia and made 118 appearances for his country over the next 17 years, scoring three goals, his first in 2003 against Australia. He was part of the team that controversially lost to France in a play-off for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and went on to play in UEFA Euro 2012 and UEFA Euro 2016.

Photo of Billy Whelan

7. Billy Whelan (1935 - 1958)

With an HPI of 44.39, Billy Whelan is the 7th most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

William Augustine Whelan (1 April 1935 – 6 February 1958), known as Billy Whelan or Liam Whelan, was an Irish footballer who played as an inside-forward. He died at the age of 22, as one of eight Manchester United players who were killed in the Munich air disaster. Whelan was born in Dublin. He was one of seven children born to John and Elizabeth Whelan. His father John was an accomplished centre half-back for Dublin club Brunswick and was instrumental in winning the FAI Junior Shield in 1924. His mother was an avid Shamrock Rovers supporter. His father died in 1943, when Whelan was just eight years old. He was not a confident flyer and just before the aeroplane took off from Munich, he was heard to say: "This may be death, but I'm ready."He played Gaelic games, winning a medal for St Peter's of Phibsboro. Dublin GAA club Naomh Fionnbarra successfully had a railway bridge situated near the place of Whelan's birth renamed after him in 2006, while the Naomh Fionnbarra clubhouse also has Whelan's Manchester United membership card.

Photo of Patrick O'Connell

8. Patrick O'Connell (1887 - 1959)

With an HPI of 44.21, Patrick O'Connell is the 8th most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 16 different languages.

Patrick Joseph O'Connell (8 March 1887 – 27 February 1959), also known as Paddy O'Connell or Patricio O'Connell, was an Irish footballer and manager. He played as a defender, most notably, for Belfast Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday, Hull City and Manchester United. He has the distinction of being the first player from what is now the Republic of Ireland to play for and captain Manchester United.As an international, he captained Ireland and was a member of the team that won the 1914 British Home Championship. However, O'Connell is probably best remembered for managing several clubs in La Liga. In 1935 he led Real Betis to their first La Liga title and during the Spanish Civil War he took FC Barcelona on a tour of North America. Despite these successes, he died destitute in London in 1959 and was initially buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London NW6.

Photo of Liam Brady

9. Liam Brady (1956 - )

With an HPI of 43.80, Liam Brady is the 9th most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

William Brady (born 13 February 1956) is an Irish former footballer and pundit. He found success both in England with Arsenal, where he won an FA Cup in 1979, and in Italy with Juventus, winning two Serie A titles. Brady was capped 72 times for the Ireland national team.Brady was a talented attacking midfielder renowned for his left foot and elegant technical skills such as his high-quality passing, vision and close control, which made him an excellent playmaker. Brady went on to manage Celtic and Brighton and Hove Albion. He was the assistant manager of the Republic of Ireland national football team from 2008 to 2010 and also held the post of Head of Youth Development at Arsenal from 1996 to 2013. He began his media career as a television pundit in 1990 with the BBC, before moving to RTÉ Sport in 1998. In June 2023, Brady announced that he would step down from his punditry duties with RTÉ after 25 years.

Photo of Tony Dunne

10. Tony Dunne (1941 - 2020)

With an HPI of 42.58, Tony Dunne is the 10th most famous Irish Soccer Player.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Anthony Peter Dunne (24 July 1941 – 8 June 2020) was an Irish footballer who played as a left-back. Born in Dublin, he began his career with youth side Stella Maris before signing for Drumcondra-based Shelbourne, with whom he won the FAI Cup in his second year in the senior team in 1960. That year, he moved to England to play for Manchester United, for whom he made more than 500 appearances in 13 years, winning the First Division in 1965 and 1967, the FA Cup in 1963 and the European Cup in 1968. After being released in 1973, he signed for Bolton Wanderers, making another almost 200 appearances in six years, before playing a single season with the Detroit Express in the North American Soccer League in 1979. Dunne won 33 caps for the Republic of Ireland between 1962 and 1975, and was named Irish Footballer of the Year in 1969. After retiring, he had a brief spell as manager of Norwegian club Steinkjer FK in 1982–83.

Pantheon has 67 people classified as soccer players born between 1855 and 2002. Of these 67, 59 (88.06%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living soccer players include Roy Keane, Robbie Keane, and Denis Irwin. The most famous deceased soccer players include Arthur Johnson, Willoughby Hamilton, and Billy Whelan. As of April 2022, 5 new soccer players have been added to Pantheon including Patrick O'Connell, Caoimhín Kelleher, and Troy Parrott.

Living Soccer Players

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Deceased Soccer Players

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Newly Added Soccer Players (2022)

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Which Soccer Players were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 7 most globally memorable Soccer Players since 1700.