An XI Of Ireland’s Finest Ever ‘Granny-Rule’ Players

Who are some of Ireland’s greatest ever granny-rule players?

Many men who have represented the Boys in Green may not have been born here, but their brilliant displays for Ireland have seen them go down in the country’s sporting folklore.

Here we comprise an XI of some of the country’s finest international footballers who qualified for Ireland through ‘granny-rule’ – players who were not born in Ireland but qualified for the national team as they were of Irish descent.

Players such as Paul McGrath and David O’Leary do not fit the criteria for this team. Both were born in England to Irish parents but grew up in Ireland and did not need the ‘granny rule’ to qualify for the Irish national side.


Goalkeeper: Keiren Westwood

A tricky one between the sticks, Keiren Westwood gets the nod despite being his international career never quite reaching his successes at club level.

Westwood has consistently been one of the finest goalkeepers at Championship level for Coventry and later Sheffield Wednesday. He has also had a brief stint in the Premier League with Sunderland. The ‘keeper found himself behind Shay Given at international level, before eventually breaking into the starting XI after Euro 2012.

Injuries though would hamper him and, despite being in and out of squads under Trapattoni, O’Neill and McCarthy he would only end up with 21 caps, far less than he perhaps should have won.


Right-back: Mark Lawrenson

A member of the famed Liverpool side of the 1980s, Mark Lawrenson won 39 caps for Ireland during his spell with the Boys in Green, scoring five goals.

Lawrenson was a staple for Ireland in the early 80s, consistently featuring in European Championship and World Cup qualifying campaigns however injury, unfortunately, prevented him from making the Euro 88 squad.

The former Liverpool and Brighton man’s versatility was also a huge asset, with Lawrenson able to operate in the midfield, at full-back as well as at centre-half.


Centre-back: Gary Breen

A composed centre-half, Gary Breen won 63 caps for Ireland during his 10 years with the senior team, with his best form coming at the 2002 World Cup.

Under Mick McCarthy, he was a vital part of the side who reached the last 16 of the tournament. His impressive displays at the back led to interest from Inter Milan before Breen eventually moved to West Ham.

Breen would continue to find himself a staple of the Boys in Green into much of 2003, however, it was under the tutelage of his centre-back partner in this team where he played his best football for Ireland.


Centre-back: Mick McCarthy

57 caps for Ireland as well as two managerial spells in charge, Mick McCarthy’s commitment to the country can certainly never be questioned.

McCarthy became the first choice at the back for Ireland, playing in every minute of every game at Euro 88 before being handed the captaincy at Italia 90, leading the Boys in Green to the quarter-finals of the tournament.

“Captain Fantastic” as he became affectionately known, McCarthy’s no-nonsense approach to defending led to him being one of Jack Charlton’s most dependable players.


Left-back: Kevin Kilbane

One of Ireland’s greatest ever servants, Kevin Kilbane was a constant in almost every one of his 14 years representing his country.

A versatile left-footer who could operate in the midfield or at left-back, Kilbane played every minute of Ireland’s World Cup campaign in 2002 while winning 111 caps in total for the Boys in Green.


Centre-midfield: Ray Houghton

The scorer of two of Ireland’s most famous goals, Ray Houghton’s exploits in green have made him one of the country’s most beloved adopted sons.

Houghton won 73 caps for the Boys in Green scoring six goals, the first of which came in a win over England at Euro 88 with another coming six years later with a brilliant strike in the famous victory over Italy.

A talented midfielder Houghton achieved large success with Liverpool at club level, however, one could certainly argue that his finest days came in 99 and 94 with Ireland.


Centre-midfield: Andy Townsend

A combative midfielder, Andy Townsend was a standout for Ireland in the 90s, eventually being handed the captaincy by Jack Charlton.

Townsend played in all five of Ireland’s matches at the 1990 World Cup, scoring in the shootout win against Romania, before captaining his country in USA 94 four years later.

The midfielder would go on to win 70 caps for the Boys in Green scoring 7 goals in what was a hugely successful international career.


Left-midfield: Kevin Sheedy

A talented left-midfielder, Kevin Sheedy was a crucial part of a two-time title-winning Everton side in the 80s, while also featuring for Ireland at both Euro 88 and Italia 90.

Sheedy though is perhaps best remembered by Irish fans for his equaliser against England at Italia, the country’s first-ever goal at a World Cup finals.

The Welsh-born wide-man won 46 caps for Ireland scoring nine goals.


Right-midfield: Jason McAteer

Another who became an Irish hero thanks to a crucial goal, McAteer won 53 caps during his 10-year spell with the Boys in Green.

McAteer featured in every game during the 94 World Cup and despite coming towards the tail end of his international career by the time the 2002 World Cup qualifiers came about, he would play a crucial role in getting Ireland to Japan and Korea.

In the first game against Holland, he found the net to help secure a vital point away from home, with his strike against the Dutch at Landsdowne Road essentially booking Ireland’s place in the 2002 World Cup.


Striker: Tony Cascarino

Joint fourth on the list of the country’s top goalscorers, Tony Cascarino won 88 caps for the Boys in Green scoring 19 goals in what was a brilliant career with Ireland.

Cascarino featured in every game at Italia 90 as well as cameos at both Euro 88 and the 1994 World Cup, and always took great pride in representing his country.

Controversy did emerge in 2000 though when Cascarino revealed in his book that he had no blood relation to his Irish grandmother. However, the FAI released a statement refuting the claim outlining that he has always been eligible during his playing career.


Striker: John Aldridge

Aldridge spoke with a Scouse accent but the former Liverpool striker was as passionate as anyone when it came to representing Ireland.

Like his strike partner in this team, Tony Cascarino, Aldridge scored 19 times for the Boys in Green, winning 69 caps in the process.

Aldridge featured in every game for Ireland at both Euro 88 and Italia 90 and scored five goals to help Ireland qualify for the 1994 World Cup.


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Author: 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 View all posts by Oisin McQueirns