The Republic of Ireland has provided some exceptionally talented players during the Premier League era in England and here we reveal our Top Five from the Emerald Isle.
Our famous five have 21 Premier League titles between them but there can only be one logical starting place, with the man that captained Manchester United through a golden era at Old Trafford.
Keane moved to Manchester United in the summer of 1993 for a then British record of £3.75million, giving Sir Alex Ferguson arguably the most important transfer coup of his tenure. The midfielder had been set to sign for Kenny Dalglish and Blackburn Rovers until Ferguson intervened late on. The rest is history.
The Cork native would win seven Premier League titles with the Red Devils and he became one of the finest captains in the club’s history. Keane was the personification of his manager on the field – tough, determined and demanding of his teammates. He led by example and rates as one of the finest players to have graced the Premier League; irrespective of nationality.
Alongside Keane was his fellow Corkman at full-back. Irwin was much more understated but no less important during a decorated decade in Manchester United colours. He, too, won seven Premier League titles in the red jersey and managed 18 goals from his defensive role; testament to his ability from dead balls.
He had pace and positional sense and a wonderful left foot. He was one of those players that rarely put a foot wrong, making him a rock on which Ferguson leaned.
The other Keane – no relation – would become his nation’s all-time leading goalscorer and one of international football’s leading marksmen during a much-travelled career. Keane represented seven Premier League clubs over a 13-year span in England’s top flight.
His best work came at Tottenham Hotspur where he scored the bulk of his 126 Premier League goals. A dream move to Liverpool in 2008 did not work out as he failed to truly fit into the plan of Rafael Benitez. The Dubliner remains the greatest goalscoring talent Ireland has produced.
Duff and Robbie Keane were the faces of Ireland’s national side for a generation, including in their 2002 World Cup appearance. The former was a throwback to a bygone era of tricky wingers in the Stanley Matthews mould. Duff had a bag of tricks and turns, the skill to go along with his electric pace.
After seven years at Blackburn, he earned a big move to Chelsea right at the start of the Roman Abramovich era as the new owner aimed to take the Premier League by storm. He helped the Blues to two Premier League titles during his stay at Stamford Bridge. The Blues have maintained their status as one of the Premier League elites after Abramovich’s injection of cash and were one of the favourites to finish in the top four in the Premier League betting prior to the break.
Duff had been a League Cup winner with Blackburn and, after a stint at Newcastle, would later help Fulham to an unlikely Europa League Final in 2010.
A third member of this class from the Manchester United dynasty under Ferguson, O’Shea was regarded as Mr Versatile around Old Trafford. After joining as a teenager, he would win 15 major honours – including five Premier League titles – during a decade in the United first-team set-up.
He’s remembered for scoring vital goals against Liverpool at Anfield and once nutmegging the great Luis Figo in a Champion League tie against Real Madrid. He later enjoyed a spell at Sunderland, though he would experience relegation during his time at the Stadium of Light.