Generally us Irish as a whole do well abroad, sure didn’t we build America? Even if the country is roasting we slap on some factor 50 and have a few pints, be grand we say. Sure we travel in search for work, but sometimes we travel in search of Football. We have been Germany, the US, Korea, Japan , Poland and France for all the tournaments we got to, not to mention the likes of Andorra and Malta and countless other places we go looking to support Irish football. However what if you were going to these places in search of a job in football?
With the announcement that Irish international Jack Byrne has now left Shamrocks rovers for sunny Cyprus to Apoel FC ( see below ) we thought it would be fun to have a look at some of the most successful Irish men and Women who have plied their trade away from the Irish and British Isles.
Between 1980 and 1987 Arsenal legend Liam Brady played for no less then four Italian clubs. Not just any Italian clubs either, Giants like Inter Milan and Juventus. During his time at Arsenal Brady was the first foreign player to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1979. That coupled with a tremendous display for the Gunnars in the Cup Winners Cup semi final against Juventus, encouraged the Turin side to spend 500,000 on the Irishman.
Here Brady won two Serie A championships, before Michel Platini arrived and displaced him from the team. Brady would go onto sign for Sampadoria, followed by Inter Milan before finishing his Italian journey at Ascoli. Brady eventually returned to London, this time with West Ham but his Italian dalliance spanned a total of seven years , where he played a total of 297 games and managed 35 goals. Bellisimo!
Irelands leading goalscorer managed to play professionally for no less then 13 boyhood clubs. One club in particular though sticks out more then any other. Word was when Robbie was a youngster banging in goals for Crumlin United he was really imagining he was instead playing in front of a capacity crowd of 85,000 in the Salt Lake Stadium, Bidhannagar, West Bengal, India. This is where the team Atlético de Kolkata played and Robbie was fortunate enough to end his playing career, and thus fulfilling his boyhood dream there, with a total on nine games played and six scored.
Now like Robbies assertions of playing for a boyhood clubs, the last paragraph was a bit fabricated considering the Indian club was only founded in 2014 , and is actually now dissolved. The fact this is where our Rabs wrapped up his illustrious playing days is actually true though. Keanes transfers always raised a few eyebrows to be fair.
Bursting onto the scene with Wolves in 1997, Keane had an army of suitors. In the end he decided on linking up with Gordon Strachan and Mustapha Hadji at Coventry, naturally. Here he established himself as the clubs top goal scorer which alerted Marcelo Lippis attention and next season the dublin hitman was off to join Christian Vieri and Clarence Seedorf at Inter Milan. After 14 games and three goals Keane moved back to England however his arguably most succesful international adventure was still to come.
After Leeds, Liverpool and two spells at Spurs, David Beckham apparently convinced Robbie Keane to swap London for LA. From 2011 to 2016 Keane lit up the Galaxy managing 83 goal in 125 appearences. If Becks has a statue over there Robbie bloomin’ deserves one aswell.
3. Eric Molloy
Maybe not as internationally renowned as the two lads above, but Eric Molloy has been doing Irish football proud ever since he turned professional.
I mean a man from Carlow has played in the Fifa Club World Cup, becoming the first Irishman to do so in ten years. John O’shea and Darren Gibson last did it with Manchester Untied in 2008 after United qualified by winning the Champions League in Moscow versus Chelsea. Eric’s side Team Wellington had qualified after winning the OFC Champions League. Unfortunately Molloys New Zealand team lost to United Arab Emirates Pro-League champions Al Ain FC at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, however even getting to experience something to that magnitude is a huge achievement.
Molloy spent a total of three years in New Zealand with both Southern united and Wellington. Here he earned a transfer to Poland to play for Stomil Olsztyn before ultimately returning back to Ireland
Eric hit the headlines last year in Frank Lampard’s coaching debut for Chelsea against Bohemians. The game ended in a draw thanks his last minute goal.
Irish international Louise Quinn has been another former Gunnar who has swapped London for Italy. The former Peamount player managed to help Arsenal win a league title in 2019 for the first time since 2012 along with a league cup in 2018. Now Quinn will be hoping of Champions League success with the historic club Fiorentina after joining them this season. At the heart of the defence Quinn has a last 16 tie on the horizon after a dramatic 96th minute victory which seen her side defeat Slavia Praha on aggregate.
The 82 time capped player does has history of player far away from home, as Quinn previously played with Swedish club Eskilstuna United in 2013 and helped them win promotion and league title in her first season.
In 1987 Frank Stapleton was cast aside from Old Trafford mot long after after the arrival of one Alex Fergurson, who looked to stamp his autority on the team. An oppurtunity to swap Manchester for Amsterdam to work under Johann Cruyff would not have been that big of a decision to make for the former Arsenal and United player. I mean Cruyff was and still is a legend of the game however unfortunately the man who made famous the Cruyff turn was apparently only taking a gamble on the Irishman after missing out on Coventry player Cryille Regis. Cruyff even says so in his autobiography “My Turn : The Autobiography”.
Stapleton didn’t have the greatest of times with the iconic club however he did manage a appearance and a goal for Ajax against Irish opposition. In the 1987/1988 Cup Winners’ Cup Ajax were drawn against Turlough O’Connors Dundalk side where they held the Dutch team to a goaless game in the first half where Stapleton on the bench at the Amsterdam ArenA. Dundalk ultimately lost four nil where stapleton got on the scorscheet in the 87th minute and won six nil in the second leg.
Stapleton was eventually displaced by another man who would wear an Arsenal jersey, that being one Denis Bergkamp. A loan to Belgian side Anderlecht and then Derby City ultimately leading to a pernament exit from Ajax after managing just six appearances and heading to French side Le Harve. In a coaching capacity Stapleton managed New England Revolution in the MLS in 1996 where he retired in the same year. Eventually Stapleton returned to football for one year as the assistant manager of the Jordan national football team where he linked up with former Red Devil teammate Ray Wilkins.
As an interesting side bar Stapleton wasnt the first Irishman associated with Ajax. In 1910 former Spurs and Chelsea player John Kirwan ( Below ) from Dunlavin in Wicklow moved to the Netherlands to become the first professional manager at Ajax Amsterdam. In 1911 he guided the club to top flight football for the very first time by leading Ajax to the Dutch Second Class title and victory in a promotion play-off. Kirwan returned to London after the outbreak of the First World War and was succeeded as Ajax coach by Jack Reynolds. Later coached Bohemians in his native country and A.S. Livorno in Italy for one season before settling in the London area.
6. Bryan Byrne
From a Kilkenny perspective with did have one player reach Major league Soccer glory! Bryan Byrne was born in Kilkenny and managed to be the 38th drafted player in the 2007 MLS SuperDraft. Byrne was apparently being touted to join Los Angeles Galaxy, but a disagreement over his playing position and the signing of David Beckham resulted in the team passing on him.
Byrne signed a contract with the Revolution in April 2007 and made his MLS debut against Real Salt Lake in 2007. However this was to be his solitary appearence for the senior team and he would mainly feature for the Reserve team, before leaving at the end of the year and subsequently signing for Ventura County Fusion.
Byrne went on to play two seasons with Fusion, helping them to the USL Premier Development League championship in 2009. We were fortunate enough to speak with Bryan this last July on KCLR Scoreline where he told us all about his new business venture soccercleats101.com.
Another Kilkenny man who currently is without a club is Timmy Purcell. Moving to Australia in 2015, Timmy managed to play for three second tier Australian Teams such as Melbourne Knights, Dandenong Thunder and Green Gully Cavaliers.
7. Shane McFaul
Starting off with Notts County, Dubliner Shane McFaul has probably earned a moniker of being the most traveled man in Irish Soccer. After 45 appearances with Notts County he rather unconventionally moved to Virginia Beech Marineers, who played in the USL First Division , which is the the second division behind the MLS. A spell with both UCD and Brighton he found himself winning an FAI Cup with Sporting Fingal and a League of Ireland with St. Patricks Athletic in 2013.
Now Sandwiched in between those trophies was a spell with FC Haka from Finland. Mc Faul would go onto make appearances for a total of Four Finnish sides and between togging out for FC Haka, Mikkelin Palloilijat, Sudet, Kotkan Työväen Palloilijat he manged to play 19 times for Indian club DSK Shivajians FC.
Other notable players who have found success further is two time All Ireland football winner with Dublin Kevin Moran, who swapped Old Trafford for Sporting Gijon, John Aldridge scored 33 goals in 63 appearances for Real Sociedad and Phil Babb managed 37 appearences for Portugese side Sportin Lisbon.
Wes Holohan managed just five competitive games for Newcastle Jets while the late Liam Miller carved out a nice career with Perth Glory, Brisbane Roar and Melbourne City.