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A Brief History Of Irish Players In The Premier League Team Of The Year

As the end of the season approaches so too does the annual PFA awards that come with the closure of another campaign in the Premier League.

On Thursday, the top flight Team of Year was announced with Liverpool and Manchester City dominating proceedings.

One man who didn’t make the XI, however, was Wolves right wing back and Irish international Matt Doherty who was unlucky to miss out despite his tremendous displays for the newly promoted side this season.

Had Doherty been included he would have been only the 11th Irish man to make the end of year team since the start of the Premier League.

Let’s take a look at the other ten players to have made the PFA Premier League Team of the Year.

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Roy Keane (Manchester United & Nottingham Forest) – Five Appearances

Arguably the most decorated Irish footballer of all time, Roy Keane was a staple of the PFA Team of the Year in his prime, appearing five times between 1992/1993 and 2001/2002.

Keane’s first inclusion came with Nottingham Forest in the inaugural Premier League season before he found himself included three years in a row from 1999/2000 to 2001/2002, captaining United to two league titles during that time.

When you consider the midfield quality in the Premier League at that time, it really is a testament to Keane’s ability that he was such a frequent inclusion in the team of the season.

One of the finest Irish players to ever play the game, Keane is also the only Irish midfielder to have ever been included with the rest being either defenders or goalkeepers.

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Denis Irwin (Manchester United) – Two Appearances

One of the most underrated players in Premier League history, Denis Irwin made two appearances in the team of the season in the 1990s.

His first coming in the 1993/1994 season, as he was a key cog in Manchester United’s title-winning campaign and the only Irish man to be included that year.

Five seasons later he was selected again in a title-winning season for Manchester United as they continued to show their dominance over English football.

Considered by Sir Alex Ferguson to be, pound for pound, his greatest ever signing, Irwin could probably consider himself unlucky not to have been selected a couple more time.

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Gary Kelly (Leeds United) – Two Appearances

A one-club man, Leeds United’s Gary Kelly was a stalwart in a successful Leeds United side in the 90s, captaining them at just 23 years of age.

Despite both players being right-backs Kelly won his first inclusion in the team of the year alongside Denis Irwin in the 1993/1994 season, at the tender age of 19.

Kelly continued to impress on the right for Leeds appearing again in the XI six seasons later. What made the inclusion even more noteworthy was the fact that it came a season after he had missed a full campaign through injury.

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Shay Given (Newcastle United) – Two Appearances

The only Irish goalkeeper to have ever been selected, Shay Given was a massive factor in Newcastle’s European stint in the early 2000s.

His first inclusion in 2001/2002 came in a standout season for the Magpies as, after an early title challenge, they finished fourth, gaining Champions League football.

An almost ever-present in the Newcastle net over the next four years, Given again made the team of the season in 2005/2006 as he helped his side to a seventh-place finish in the league.

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Stephen Carr (Tottenham) – Two Appearances

It’s a great mystery as to why Ireland produce such quality right-backs in abundance, but during his time at Spurs, Stephen Carr was unquestionably one of the finest.

He appeared in the 2000/2001 team of the season alongside Roy Keane after his extremely impressive performances for Spurs.

A knee injury robbed him of the chance to retain his place the next season as he was sidelined for the entire campaign but bounced back in 2002/2003 as he became the only Irish player included that year.

One of Ireland’s less appreciated talents.

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Ian Harte (Leeds United) – One Appearance

Harte appeared in his only team of the season in 1999/2000 alongside his uncle and fellow Leeds United full-back Gary Kelly.

The left-back was an integral part of an exciting young Leeds team who finished third in the Premier League and subsequently qualified for the Champions League the very next season where they impressed reaching the last four.

A constant threat from free-kicks and penalties, Harte also managed six league goals in what was arguably the finest season of his career.

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Paul McGrath (Aston Villa) – One Appearance

One of the finest Irish players of all time, McGrath’s sole team of the season appearance, in it’s Premier League form, came in the 1992/1993 season.

McGrath was a standout in Aston Villa’s title charge that season, although they were pipped to the post by a very impressive Manchester United side.

The centre-half was also awarded the Players’ Player of the Year accolade that year such was the esteem McGrath was held in.

Wrought with knee injuries, McGrath still went on to be a vital part of Villa’s backline for the next few seasons but the 1992/1993 was certainly his best at Villa Park.

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Steve Finnan (Fulham) – One Appearance

The only player to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, all four levels of the English league football and the Football Conference, Steve Finnan is another Irish full-back who was criminally underrated.

Best known for his exploits with Liverpool, Finnan made the team of the season after an impressive debut Premier League campaign with his previous club Fulham.

Finnan helped the Londoners stay up and was awarded the club’s player of the year award in addition to his team of the season accolade.

The defender would go on to play another season with the Cottagers before joining Liverpool.

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Richard Dunne (Aston Villa) – One Appearance

After nine seasons at Manchester City, it took Richard Dunne just one at Aston Villa before he was included in the team of the season.

After moving to Villa Park, Dunne was a crucial cog in their push for European football playing 35 games as his side finished sixth in the league.

A staple of the Premier League for so many years, Dunne’s inclusion in 2009/2010 was due reward for his fantastic displays.

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Seamus Coleman (Everton) – One Appearance

The most recent Irish inclusion in the PFA Team of the Season, Everton’s Seamus Coleman was selected in the 2013/2014 campaign.

That year was an incredible one for both Coleman and Everton with the club finishing fifth in the table and only conceding 39 goals throughout the campaign.

Coleman also chipped in with six goals himself and was hailed by Roberto Martinez as one of the finest full-backs in world football.

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About Oisin McQueirns

Oisin McQueirns is a digital journalist at Pundit Arena. Massive fan of Leeds United, Ric Flair and Trusting The Process. Contact him here oisin@punditarena.com