The Premier League’s Irish influence has been a heavy one ever since the first season in 1992 – be it the hard-tackling of Roy Keane, the saves of Shay Given, the quick feet of Damien Duff, or the goals of Robbie Keane.
With St Patrick’s Day this weekend, SmartBets have decided to shine a light on the players from the Emerald Isle that have featured on the other side of the Irish Sea – and seeing if as the league becomes more cosmopolitan, Irish players are still holding as much sway.
So first – who is the most successful Irish player in Premier League history?
Well, if we’re judging it solely by points won, it may be a bit of a surprise.
While the four players named earlier are all Premier League greats, with numerous records and titles to their name – it’s a lesser light who takes the crown as the most successful Irishman.
Ahead of Keane, Denis Irwin and Given sits John O’Shea – whose 759 points throughout his Premier League career are the most by any Irish player.
While O’Shea may have been overshadowed by more glamourous names in his career at Manchester United, which stretched from 1999 to 2011, the defender has a trophy cabinet most would envy.
O’Shea picked up five Premier League titles, to go with one FA Cup, two League Cups, a Club World Cup and the Champions League – not a bad haul at all.
In all, he played 256 times in the league for United – and much of his leading points haul was won at the Red Devils.
His stint at Sunderland, where he still turns out, has been less successful – battling relegation throughout much of his time at the Stadium of Light before eventually succumbing to the drop last year, though points won in his 189 Premier League games sees crowned as the league’s most successful Irishman, with 759 points.
In second place is Roy Keane – though he can feel aggrieved not to be considered the best Irish player in Premier League history.
The midfield enforcer won 60.1% of his 366 Premier League games for Nottingham Forest, and then Man United – with his 220 wins, and 2.04 points/game the most of any player.
However, having played 79 times fewer than O’Shea, he falls just short in terms of points earned – 14 points back on 745.
Keeper Shay Given has the most appearances of any Irish player, on 451 – putting him 22nd in the all-time Premier League list.
The accolade of Ireland’s highest ever Premier League scorer goes to Robbie Keane – who also holds the record for Ireland at international level.
The striker, who turned out for six clubs across his Premier League career, has 126 goals – enough to earn himself 14th on the all-time list.
Two unwanted Premier League records belong to one unlucky Irishman. Richard Dunne holds the record for the most red cards (eight) and own goals (10) – earning him an unfortunate slice of Premier League history.
There is one thing to note from the initial list, however – that none of those illustrious names are still playing in the Premier League. Has the Irish influence on the Premier League dropped?
Well, according to our research, there are fewer Irish players this season than any of the other 26 Premier League campaigns.
Just 17 Irish players have made appearances in the Premier League this season – the lowest amount since the beginning of the Premier League in 1992 – and a long way from the high of 36, set in the 2002/3, 2009/10, and 2011/12 seasons.
The 2011/12 season saw a record for the most appearances by Irishmen, with 768. Just six years on, however, and that number has fallen to 223.
That campaign six years ago saw Jonathan Walters and Stephan Ward play in every single match of the season, and a further 24 play over 15 matches.
This season, however, only 9 have hit that mark – and unless Harry Arter (13) gets back into the Bournemouth team, having not played since New Year’s Day, then it’s unlikely any more will join them.
Goals are well down too – with only seven Irish scorers, none of which have netted more than twice.
While the likes of Shane Duffy and Jeff Hendrick may yet establish themselves as solid Premier League players, it’s unlikely they will be challenging for titles any time soon.
Though it isn’t a cheery message for St Patrick’s Day, our research has found that Irish eyes aren’t currently smiling – in the Premier League at least.