Pies Classics: St Patrick’s Day Special – 10 English-Born Footballers Who Played For Republic Of Ireland

Chris Wright

17th, March 2017


As a doff of the wax cap to it being St Patrick’s Day and all, Pies thought we’d have a little look-see at those gentlemen who, despite being born upon the sceptred shores of Albion, decided to represent the Republic of Ireland with pride at international level – much like old Saint Paddy himself.

Without further ado, let’s have a gander…

1. Shay Brennan

Born in Manchester in 1937, Brennan was the very first second generation player to play for Ireland – making his debut in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Spain in May of 1965.

The Manchester United full-back went on to win a total of 19 caps for his adopted country.

2. Andy Townsend

In the 1990s, Ireland manager Jack Charlton publicly eschewed any player playing in the League of Ireland in favour of fully utilising the ‘Granny Rule’ to the Nth degree – meaning the national side was suddenly awash with players sourced from outside Eire with the appropriate ancestry.

A perfectly passable midfielder in his day, Townsend proved to be one of Charlton’s most successful Anglo-Irish imports, going on to captain the Republic at the 1994 World Cup despite both looking and sounding like owned a market stall in the East End.

3. Tony Cascarino

A Cockney striker with an Italian name, Cascarino originally qualified to play for the Republic of Ireland through his maternal grandmother.

However, as revealed in his autobiography (released in 2000), his mother confessed to him in 1996 that he’d actually been adopted as a baby and therefore had no certain genetic ties to Ireland at all.

Despite knowing what he knew, Cascarino continued playing for Ireland for three more years, bowing out in 1999 with 19 goals in 88 appearances – all of which are more than likely to be completely invalid.

4. Mark Lawrenson

Famously made his debut as an 18-year-old in 1977 without manager Johnny Giles having ever seen him play, Lawro – a prodigiously talented young defender with Preston at the time – was tapped up after the Ireland camp realised he qualified through his mother.

5. John Aldridge

Despite looking and sounding like something from a Harry Enfield sketch, Aldridge scored 19 goals in 69 caps for Ireland over the course of his ten-year international career.

That said, the Liverpudlian striker’s most iconic moment in an Ireland shirt almost certain came (just) off the pitch, when he famously had a right old go at the match officials at the 1994 World Cup for taking absolutely bloody ages to get him on as a substitution against Mexico.

6. David O’Leary

The accent and name both scream ‘Ireland’, but O’Leary was actually born to Irish parents in Stoke Newington of all places.

O’Leary actually made his Ireland debut against the country of his birth in 1976, though the highlight of his 68-cap tenure was undoubtedly his ice cold, game-winning penalty kick in the shoot-out against Romania in the second round at Italia ’90 – a tournament in which he featured for just 26 minutes.

7. Mick McCarthy

Born in Barnsley and more Yorkshire-ish than Geoffrey Boycott’s pint of mild, McCarthy proved to be one of Irish football’s greatest servants, captaining the team at the 1990 World Cup before going on to steer them to the 2002 tournament as manager – where he was famously told to “stick it up his bollocks” by noted raconteur Roy Keane.

8. Paul McGrath

One of Ireland’s finest ever players, McGrath spoke with a gentle, lilting Irish burr as a result of being born in London and moving to Dublin as a kid.

After battling alcoholism for many years, he now mostly spends his time recording cover versions of The Byrds on moody looking coastlines.

9. Phil Babb

Seen as McGrath’s natural heir by many, Babb represented Ireland 35 times (including some heroic displays at the 1994 World Cup) after qualifying through his Carlow-born mother despite being born in Lambeth and being as Cockney as jellied chimney-sweeps.

10. Kevin Kilbane

With 110 caps under his belt, Kilbane is not only the Republic’s most-capped “non-Irish” player ever but also their third most-capped player of all time – despite, of course, clearly being born and raised in Preston.

Honourable mentions: Jason McAteer, Chris Hughton, Terry Phelan, Garry Waddock, Eddie McGoldrick, Terry Mancini.

(A version of this post originally appeared on Pies in March 2015)

Posted in Featured, International football, Top 10s & lists

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  1. PaddyMcPadderton says:

    I resent this article as it assumes that simply being born in England would render you English, despite being born to Irish parents.

  2. Liam says:

    This old chestnut regarding Cascarino’s eligibility…

    Even though he has no Irish blood, adoption laws mean that he is LEGALLY one-quarter Irish which still meets FIFA’s grandfather rule. He was NEVER ineligible which is why he was able to continue his international career.

  3. Tom says:

    Jesus, Paul McGrath was something else. What a hero!

  4. Gazz says:

    Are there May English players not born in England?
    I know John Barnes (not personally)

    • Maria says:

      There are a few Gazz. Raheem Sterling was also born in Jamaica like Barnes. Terry Buther in Singapore, Owen Hargreaves in Canada. I’m sure there are others, particularly players born Scotland, NI and Wales.

      • Geraldo says:

        @Maria you can add the likes of Tony Dorigo, Cyrille Regis, Rob Jones, Luther Blissett and, more recently, Wilfried Zaha to that list.

  5. PetrovskyKSC says:

    Ireland needs to squeeze thru to the WC! Especially for the sake of all the english footballing experts still making a remarkable effort delegitimizing your past victories against them. Bet they (or should I say YOU, Pies?) wouldn’t be to happy about the republic’s qualification!

    I’d love to see them beat the english in next year’s WC. Much like yesterday in the six nations… Wouldn’t that be some craic?

  6. Hmm... says:

    How on earth can you miss out Kevin Sheedy on this list?

    • Edinburgh Saint says:

      I think the list is only English-born Irish players, whereas Sheedy was born in Wales. Imagine that 80s Welsh-side if he had actually played for Wales – Sheedy supplying Rush and Hughes….

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