20. Séamus Coleman
Years Active: 2006-2008
Clubs: Sligo Rovers
No medals but the exception is justified, especially as he is the ultimate advertisement for the league, a future star and captain of a Premier League club and his country. He didn’t have a massive profile with Sligo Rovers but the ability was plain for all to see (bar ex-boss Rob McDonald who nearly released him). Coleman took flight under Paul Cook and exceptional showings led to the Everton move.
19. JACK BYRNE
Years Active: 2019-present
Club: Shamrock Rovers
Honours: 1 FAI Cup
The only player listed on the strength of one season. Those who feel he’s the best they have seen here might wonder if he should be higher; others will protest there’s much more to do, given the CVs of those below. But Byrne deserves a high billing for doing enough while in the LOI to get into an Ireland squad and truly hold his own. He was top drawer in the Europa League and FAI Cup and it felt like 2020 was shaping up to cement his LOI legacy. Let’s see where he is when football resumes.
18. OLLIE CAHILL
Years Active: 2000-2011
Clubs: Cork City, Shelbourne, Drogheda, Shamrock Rovers, Sporting Fingal, Bohemians
Honours: 5 Leagues (3 Shels, 1 Drogheda, 1 Shamrock Rovers); 1 Setanta Cup (Drogheda)
The Tipperary left winger was another habitual winner and his tally of 41 European appearances highlights the fact that he was always around the top table. Hit the ground running at Shels following his switch from Cork, a relentless attacking threat with the game intelligence to slot into a more defensive roles in his latter years, including a central role in continental outings for Drogheda.
17. SEÁN GANNON
Years Active: 2011-present
Clubs: Shamrock Rovers, St Patrick’s Athletic, Dundalk
Honours: 6 Leagues (5 Dundalk, 1 St Pat’s); 2 FAI Cups (Dundalk); 3 League Cups (Dundalk)
The 28-year-old right-back has a fair chance of becoming the most decorated LOI player of all time (he doesn’t count Rovers’ 2011 title win where he made one appearance). He’s also been a major influence in Dundalk’s rise with his ability to get forward from his position giving them an extra outlet. Gannon could have gone abroad if he’d really forced it but the right offer never materialised. History will be kind to him.
16. COLIN HAWKINS
Years Active: 2000-2006/2010-2012
Clubs: St Patrick’s Athletic, Bohemians, Shelbourne, Sporting Fingal, Dundalk, Shamrock Rovers
Honours: 2 Leagues (1 Bohemians, 1 Shelbourne)
The players of the early 2000s speak in reverential terms about Hawkins, believing he was the pick of the central defenders in that generation because of the all-round package he offered. After a bizarre stint at Doncaster, the one-time St Pat’s favourite lined out with Bohemians and Shelbourne before getting another chance in England. Hawkins was decent in possession, quick, strong and scored goals too.
15. KEVIN DOYLE
Years Active: 2001-2005
Clubs: St Patrick’s Athletic, Cork City
Honours: 1 League (Cork)
When St Pat’s players first encountered the youngster from Wexford, they wouldn’t have predicted his career graph but he really soared under Pat Dolan at Cork and demonstrated his progress with big contributions in a memorable Intertoto Cup run in 2004. Dolan was gone when Doyle went up another gear in 2005, becoming the most sought after player in the country and doing enough before a summer switch to Reading to qualify for a league medal when Damien Richardson’s side got the job done.
14. CHRIS SHIELDS
Years Active: 2008-present
Clubs: Bray Wanderers, Dundalk
Honours: 5 Leagues, 2 FAI Cups, 3 League Cups (all Dundalk)
No player has undergone a bigger transformation. Retained by Stephen Kenny as a back-up centre half after a torrid first year at Dundalk where he was a target for boo-boys, Shields responded to the culture change by doing more than merely surviving; he became a midfield leader of the dominant side of the 2010s and never stopped improving.
13. RONAN FINN
Years Active: 2005-present
Clubs: UCD, Sporting Fingal, Shamrock Rovers, Dundalk
Honours: 3 Leagues (2 Dundalk, 1 Rovers); 2 FAI Cups (1 Dundalk, 1 Rovers); 2 Setanta Cups (Rovers); 1 First Division (UCD)
Similar to his close pal Gannon, Finn has always been a blue-chip LOI player, and it must be remembered he was a valued member of the two teams (Rovers 2011, Dundalk 2016) that went on Europa League group stage runs. His energy levels during Dundalk’s crowded 2016 was remarkable. Finn then made a contentious Rovers return and is converting to wing back – he’s been a top performer across the space of a decade and a half.
12. SEÁN MAGUIRE
Years Active: 2011-2012/2014-2017
Clubs: Waterford, Sligo Rovers, Dundalk, Cork City
Honours: 2 Leagues (1 Cork, 1 Dundalk); 2 FAI Cups (1 Cork, 1 Dundalk); 1 Setanta Cup (Sligo)
The one-time Waterford starlet felt uncomfortable about picking up medals as a fringe player in an unfulfilling stay at Dundalk after a return from England, but his relocation to Cork City was life-changing. In 2016, he was superb, with European goals and a cup final winner. In 2017, he was unstoppable, equalling the club’s record for goals in a season (20). He would have smashed it were it not for his move to Preston with a dozen games left.
11. RICHIE TOWELL
Years Active: 2013-2015
Honours: 2 Leagues, 1 FAI Cup, 1 League Cup
Towell takes a prominent standing because of the extent to which he completely dominated a season, scoring 29 from midfield in the double-winning 2015 season, including an Aviva Stadium winner. It’s believed he won the PFAI-player-of-the-year gong by a record margin, having lost out narrowly a year previously – he wasn’t just a one-season wonder. The fitness fanatic was perfectly suited to that Dundalk side, but has found it hard to stand out in the English game.