Republic of Ireland greats Roy Keane and Robbie Keane
Football is the most played sport in the Republic of Ireland, but only the third most popular spectators sport, with many Irish football fans choosing to follow the exploits of a Premier League team rather than a more local League of Ireland side. Ireland have qualified for the World Cup three times, reaching the Quarter-Finals in 1990, their finest achievement to date.
In the European Championships, the Boys in Green have never progressed that far, qualifying three times and having their best outing in 2016, when they reached the round of 16. Ireland's only footballing silverware has come in two very minor international tournaments; the 1986 Icelandic Triangular Tournament and the 2011 Celtic Nations Cup.
Despite their limited success, Ireland could be possible underdogs in this competition, with a solid enough side with plenty of heart, grit and determination, particularly in midfield. Below is Ireland's definite 15 man squad, plus their 8 reserves from which you choose which 3 join the initial 15 to create a final 18 man squad.
Current Stoke City goalkeeper Shay Given
Ireland have had a few good shot stoppers over the years, and it could be a fierce battle for the number one shirt. A good candidate is Shay Given. The former Newcastle United man was once among the finest goalkeepers in the Premier League, and may have stayed at that level a little longer had it not been for his misbegotten move to Manchester City. Given was twice named Ireland's Player of the Year and has won 134 caps for his country.
Celtic legend Packie Bonner will be the main hurdle between Shay Given and the number one spot for the International Legends World Cup. The four-time Scottish champion spent his entire 20 year career with the Bhoys, as well as winning 80 caps for Ireland, the first of which came on his 21st birthday. Bonner was Ireland's goalkeeper for their impressive performance at the 1990 World Cup.
It is some measure of Denis Irwin's ability that he is considered to be, along with the likes of Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo, one of Sir Alex Ferguson's greatest signings as manager of Manchester United. Irwin spent 12 of his 21 years in the game at Old Trafford, also turning out for Leeds United, Oldham and Wolves. A wonderful full-back who made the PFA Team of the Century, Irwin won seven Premier League titles, a Champions League and much more under Ferguson, as well as picking up 56 caps for the Republic.
Richard Dunne in action for Aston Villa
A debatable inclusion in this squad as the likes of Mark Lawrenson miss out, but when considering their contribution to the national team as well as overall ability and achievement at club level, Dunne has to be included. The own goal specialist won 80 caps for Ireland, and put in a number of heroic displays. The man with the most own goals and joint most red cards in Premier League history, Dunne is best remembered for his nine years at Manchester City.
A top class centre-half who couldn't miss out on this squad, Paul McGrath won trophies with Manchester United and Aston Villa, as well as winning 83 caps for Ireland. The countries greatest ever central defender, McGrath had a glittering career despite being hampered by injuries, and starred at both the 1990 and 1994 World Cup's for the ROI.
Full-back is the strongest position in the Republic of Ireland's history, and a number of them turned out for Manchester United. Johnny Carey is another, and arguably the pick of the bunch. The Dubliner spent 16 years at Old Trafford, where he won both the league and the FA Cup, and he was the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1949. Carey won 29 caps for Ireland, a further 9 for the now defunct IFA and 1 for a Europe XI which faced England in 1947.
Chris Waddle of Tottenham Hotspur in action against Kevin Moran of Manchester United
There is a definite Manchester United theme running through this defence... Kevin Moran excelled in both Gaelic and association football. Best remembered for his decade at Manchester United, in which he won three trophies but also became the first man to be sent off in an FA Cup final, Moran also played for Bohemians, Sporting Gijon and Blackburn Rovers. He won 71 caps for Ireland.
Full-back may be the Irish's strongest position, but that is narrowly followed by central or holding midfield. Yet another Manchester United man, and a real legend of Old Trafford, Roy Keane captained the Red Devils for 8 of the 12 years he spent under Sir Alex Ferguson. A tough and robust midfielder but also fiercely talented, Keane won 16 trophies with United, before adding a further two at Celtic. Keane's international career was blotted by the Saipan incident, and he was just too late on the scene for the 1990 World Cup success. In total, Keane won 67 caps for Ireland, most as captain.
Johnny Giles in action for Leeds United
Another in the tough but talented mould of Irish central midfielders, Johnny Giles also played for Manchester United, but is far better known for his 12 year stint with Leeds United. The Irishman won two league titles, one FA Cup and reached a European Cup final at Elland Road under Don Revie. Capped 59 times by Ireland, Giles was elected as the countries best player of the last 50 years in 2004.
Born in Glasgow, Ray Houghton qualified to play for Ireland through his Irish father, and ended up scoring some of the most memorable goals in the history of the Irish national team, such as his strikes against England at Euro '88 and his goal against Italy at the 1994 World Cup. At club level, Houghton is best remembered for his time at Liverpool, where he won two league titles and two FA Cup's in five years.
Quite possibly the outstanding player in this entire squad, Liam Brady was a very gifted attacking midfielder, renowned for his skill, control and eye for a pass. Brady spent seven years at Arsenal, where he won an FA Cup, before spending another seven years in Italy, turning out for Juventus, Sampdoria, Inter Milan and Ascoli, and finally ending his career at West Ham United. Capped 72 times by Ireland, Brady offered to come out of retirement for Ireland at the 1990 World Cup, but was overlooked by Jack Charlton.
The first pre-war and second Celtic legend in this squad, Patsy Gallacher was a prolific attacking midfielder who scored 186 goals in 432 games for the Bhoys. He is Celtic's second highest scoring non-Scotsman of all-time, behind Henrik Larsson. Gallacher played for both the Dublin-based Irish side and the Belfast-based one, and was once the highest paid international in the world.
Robbie Keane celebrating at Celtic
From the midfield to the forwards and we start with Robbie Keane, Ireland's most capped player and top scorer of all-time. With 68 goals from 146 caps, when Keane ended his international career last year, he was the highest scoring active player in international football. At club level, Keane has turned out for Leeds, Tottenham, Liverpool and many more. Keane's goal against Germany at the 2002 World Cup was perhaps the most memorable of his 18 year international career.
Ireland have had some steady and consistent centre-forwards over the years, and Frank Stapleton is among the best of them. He was impressive if not prolific at both Arsenal and Manchester United, where he spent the majority of his career, winning FA Cup's with both. Stapleton scored 20 goals from 71 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
One man who was prolific was Jimmy Dunne. The 1920's and 30's star was something of a goal scoring machine, and holds the record for consecutive top flight English matches scored in (twelve), a record which Jamie Vardy came close to matching two seasons ago. In total, Dunne scored 305 goals in 322 games in his career for the likes of Sheffield United, Arsenal and Shamrock Rovers, winning 15 caps for Ireland and scoring 13 goals.
Damien Duff is among the reserves for Ireland
That's it for Ireland's definite 15, now it's over to you to pick which three reserve players get the nod and join the likes of Brady and Keane in Ireland's final 18. The eight reserve players to choose from are as follows:
1. Alan Kelly - Former Preston North End goalkeeper - 47 caps
2. David O'Leary - Former Arsenal and Leeds defender - 68 caps
3. Steve Staunton - Former Liverpool, Aston Villa and Coventry defender - 102 caps
4. Jason McAteer - Former Bolton, Liverpool and Blackburn midfielder - 52 caps
5. Damien Duff - Former Blackburn, Chelsea and Fulham winger - 100 caps
6. Ronnie Whelan - Former Liverpool midfielder - 53 caps
7. Steve Heighway - Former Liverpool winger - 34 caps
8. Niall Quinn - Former Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland striker - 92 caps
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