Best Northern Irish Soccer Players of All Time

Vince Massara

The Northern Irish soccer landscape has been blessed with some truly exceptional players throughout history. From the dazzling skills of George Best to the unwavering presence of Pat Jennings, these players have made an indelible mark on the sport.

But who can be considered the greatest among them? Let's take a journey through Northern Irish soccer history, exploring the achievements, skills, and legacies of these remarkable individuals. By delving into their stories, we can truly appreciate the magnitude of their impact and uncover the ultimate answer to this captivating question.

George Best

George Best, considered one of the greatest footballers to never play in the World Cup, showcased his exceptional talent and skill throughout his impressive career. Although he was unable to represent Northern Ireland in the World Cup, Best made a significant impact on the international stage. He played in 37 matches for his country and scored 9 goals, solidifying his contributions to the Northern Irish national team. Best is widely recognized as one of the finest players to emerge from Northern Ireland.

In addition to his international career, Best achieved numerous accomplishments at the club level. He played for Manchester United, where he played a pivotal role in their success during the 1960s. Best's iconic goal in the 1968 European Cup final against Benfica solidified his reputation as a footballing genius. That same year, he was named the European Footballer of the Year, further establishing himself as one of the best players in the world.

George Best's impact on the game can't be underestimated. His skill, flair, and natural ability made him a joy to watch, leaving a lasting impression on the footballing world. Despite never participating in a World Cup, Best's legacy as one of Northern Ireland's greatest players will forever be remembered.

Pat Jennings

Pat Jennings, a legendary goalkeeper, played a crucial role in Northern Ireland's World Cup campaigns in the 1980s. He is widely regarded as Northern Ireland's greatest ever goalkeeper, and his impact on the team cannot be overstated. Jennings made his international debut in 1964 and went on to represent Northern Ireland an impressive 119 times.

One of the standout moments in Jennings' career came during the 1982 World Cup in Spain. At the age of 41, he became the oldest player to ever appear in a World Cup tournament. This remarkable achievement showcased not only his longevity but also his skill and ability as a goalkeeper.

Jennings was known for his exceptional shot-stopping ability and his commanding presence in the box. He kept an impressive 45 clean sheets for Northern Ireland between 1964 and 1986, a testament to his goalkeeping prowess.

Throughout his career, Jennings made over 750 club appearances, most notably for Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. His consistency and reliability in the goal made him a fan favorite and earned him a place among the best goalkeepers of his generation.

The table below summarizes some key facts about Pat Jennings:

Pat Jennings
NationalityNorthern Irish

Pat Jennings made a significant contribution to Northern Ireland's success on the international stage. His skill, longevity, and impact on the game make him one of the best goalkeepers in the history of Northern Irish soccer.

David Healy

David Healy is widely regarded as one of the greatest Northern Irish soccer players of all time. He's made a significant impact on the national team with his exceptional goal-scoring abilities. Throughout his career, Healy scored an impressive 36 goals in 95 appearances for the Northern Irish team. One of his most memorable moments came during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, where he scored a remarkable 13 goals. Healy showcased his skills in a game against Spain, where he scored a hat trick.

Healy made his international debut for Northern Ireland against Luxembourg, immediately making an impact by scoring a goal. This set the stage for a remarkable career that spanned over a decade, with his last game for the national team in 2013 at the age of 33. His contributions to Northern Irish soccer can't be overstated. Healy's goal-scoring ability and dedication to the team have earned him a well-deserved place in the history books. He'll always be remembered as one of the finest Northern Irish players to have ever played the game.

Gerry Armstrong

Gerry Armstrong, a highly influential figure in Northern Irish soccer, is widely celebrated for his significant contributions to the national team. One of Northern Ireland's top scorers, Armstrong has made a lasting impact on the team.

One of his most memorable moments occurred during the 1982 World Cup, where he scored a famous goal against Spain, securing a crucial 1-1 draw and propelling Northern Ireland to the second round of the tournament. Armstrong's exceptional performance caught the attention of La Liga side Real Mallorca, who signed him.

His time in Spain further showcased his talent and solidified his status as one of Northern Ireland's greatest players. Armstrong's contributions to Northern Ireland's success and his ability to thrive in high-pressure situations make him a true legend for the nation.

Danny Blanchflower

Danny Blanchflower had a significant impact on Northern Irish soccer, both as a skilled player and a leader. He made history by captaining Northern Ireland to the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, a remarkable achievement for the team. Blanchflower's leadership qualities were evident throughout his career, and he became the first player in Northern Ireland's history to earn over 50 caps, showcasing his longevity and influence on the national team. Before George Best became the face of Northern Irish football, Blanchflower held that title, highlighting his importance in the sport's history.

Blanchflower's contributions to the national team solidify his status as one of the greatest Northern Irish soccer players of all time. His leadership and skill made him a pivotal figure in Northern Irish soccer, leaving a lasting legacy. To further demonstrate his impact, let's compare Blanchflower to another notable Northern Irish footballer, Jonny Evans.

Blanchflower earned over 50 caps for the national team and made one World Cup appearance. On the other hand, Jonny Evans has earned over 90 caps and has made three World Cup appearances. This comparison shows Blanchflower's significance in Northern Irish soccer, as he paved the way for future players like Evans.

Although Blanchflower's professional career ended before the establishment of the Premier League, his influence on the sport remains undeniable. After retiring as a player, he went on to manage several clubs, including Aston Villa. Blanchflower's impact on the international stage and his contributions to Northern Irish soccer will always be remembered.

Sammy McIlroy

Sammy McIlroy, a former Northern Irish footballer known for his technical ability and vision on the pitch, had a significant impact on the country's football history as both a player and a manager.

Here are three reasons why Sammy McIlroy is considered one of the greatest Northern Irish soccer players of all time:

  1. International Success: McIlroy represented the Northern Ireland national team with distinction, earning 88 caps and scoring 5 goals. He played a vital role in helping Northern Ireland reach the 1982 World Cup, where he showcased his talent on the international stage.
  2. Versatility and Skill: McIlroy's versatility as a midfielder made him an invaluable asset to both his club and country. He had exceptional technical ability and excellent vision on the pitch, allowing him to create scoring opportunities for his teammates and dictate the flow of the game.
  3. Legacy as a Player and Manager: After retiring from playing, McIlroy successfully transitioned into coaching and management. He had impressive spells at clubs like Macclesfield Town and Morecambe, displaying his tactical acumen and leadership skills. McIlroy's impact on Northern Irish football is evident, making him a respected figure in the country's football history.

With his impressive career and contributions to the sport, it's no surprise that Sammy McIlroy's name is synonymous with excellence in Northern Irish soccer. His achievements have rightly earned him a place in the Hall of Fame.

Steven Davis

Steven Davis, the current captain of Northern Ireland and a highly influential figure in the country's soccer history, has had a significant impact on the national team with his exceptional leadership and midfield skills. Davis, a professional footballer, holds the record for the most international caps with 134, demonstrating his longevity and dedication to the sport. His contributions to Northern Irish soccer can't be overstated, as he played a crucial role in their success at Euro 2016, where they reached the Round of 16.

Born on January 1, 1985, Davis began his professional career at Premier League club Aston Villa before moving to Fulham and then Rangers. He later joined Southampton, where he became a key player in their midfield. Davis's leadership qualities and technical abilities have earned him the captaincy of both the national team and his club.

Davis has played his home matches at Windsor Park, the iconic stadium in Belfast. He follows in the footsteps of Northern Irish legends such as Billy Bingham, who managed the national team during their successful campaigns in the 1980s. Davis's impact extends beyond his performances on the pitch, as he serves as an inspiration for aspiring Northern Irish players.

Despite interest from clubs such as Manchester United and Leeds United, Davis has remained loyal to Southampton and continues to be a driving force for both club and country. His influence on Northern Irish soccer is undeniable, and his achievements on the international stage have solidified his place as one of the best Northern Irish soccer players of all time.

Jimmy McIlroy

Jimmy McIlroy, born in 1931, is widely regarded as one of the greatest Northern Irish soccer players in history. His exceptional skills, particularly his vision and passing ability, set him apart from his peers during his career.

McIlroy's impact at Burnley, where he played for a significant portion of his career, solidified his status as one of the club's greatest players.

Additionally, his dedication to representing Northern Ireland on the international stage, including his participation in the 1958 World Cup, is celebrated in Irish football history. Although he only scored two goals for his country, McIlroy's overall contribution to the team's success was widely recognized.

His legacy as a highly skilled and influential player in Northern Irish soccer remains unparalleled.

Martin O'Neill

Martin O'Neill is a highly accomplished and respected figure in Northern Irish soccer. He'd a successful playing career and served as the captain of his national team during significant international tournaments. O'Neill represented Northern Ireland in 64 matches from the 1970s to the early 1980s, showcasing his skills and dedication to the sport.

As a professional footballer, he led his team to the second round group stage at the 1982 FIFA World Cup held in Spain, where Northern Ireland made a strong impression. O'Neill's leadership and talent were evident as he guided his team to victory in the British Home Championship in both 1980 and 1984.

One notable highlight of his career was scoring the winning goal against England in the 1985 One Park Cup. His prowess as a football player was further demonstrated during his time as a striker for Fulham, where he consistently displayed his abilities on the field.

Martin O'Neill's contributions to Northern Irish soccer as both a player and captain have had a lasting impact on the sport.

Aaron Hughes

Aaron Hughes has had an impressive career in Northern Irish soccer, following in the footsteps of Martin O'Neill. With 112 appearances, he's the third-most capped player for Northern Ireland. Hughes has shown his leadership abilities by captaining the team to victories over Spain, England, and Sweden during qualifying matches. From 2003 to 2011, he held the captaincy, inspiring and motivating his teammates.

Hughes is well-known for his disciplined defending and has had a remarkable career in football. He holds the record for the second-most Premier League appearances without receiving a red card, playing an impressive 455 games. His defensive skills have been crucial to his success and have earned him a reputation as a reliable and dependable player.

Throughout his career, Hughes has played for several notable clubs, including Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers, Brighton & Hove Albion, Melbourne City FC, and Kerala Blasters FC. His experience and skill have made him a valuable asset to these teams, contributing to their success on the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Is the 13 Year Old Footballer in Northern Ireland?

There is a 13-year-old footballer in Northern Ireland who is gaining recognition for his impressive skills and dedication to the sport. He has caught the attention of many with his exceptional talent and passion for football. This young player is expected to have a bright future in the sport, and many are excited to see his progress in the coming years.

How Many International Football Appearances Did George Best Make for Northern Ireland?

George Best represented Northern Ireland in international football on 37 occasions. His exceptional talent and distinctive playing style left a lasting impact on the country's soccer scene, serving as an inspiration for young players. Best shared a strong bond with the national team, and his impressive performances earned him recognition and accolades.

Who Has the Most Caps for Ireland Soccer?

The current player with the most caps for Ireland soccer is [current Ireland national team captain]. However, it is important to acknowledge the legendary soccer players from Northern Ireland and the iconic moments in Ireland soccer history that have shaped the sport and its impact on Northern Irish culture. Additionally, there is a rising generation of talented young players in Ireland soccer, which suggests promising prospects for future success.

Was George Best in the 1966 World Cup?

George Best did not participate in the 1966 World Cup. Although he did not play in this particular tournament, his impact on Northern Irish soccer and his international achievements cannot be denied. Best's contributions to the development of soccer in Northern Ireland continue to inspire and influence young players today.


The greatest Northern Irish soccer players of all time have left an unforgettable mark on the sport. Their talent and skill have been showcased on the international stage, with players like George Best and Pat Jennings standing out among the rest.

These players haven't only represented their country with pride but have also left a lasting legacy in the world of soccer.

Their achievements will continue to be celebrated and remembered for years to come.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *