Ireland’s top 5 goalkeepers

As part of our search for the fans All Time Ireland XI, James has given 5 of his options (in no particular order). Note: Our current talented goalkeepers are not included! Keep an eye out on the Green Machine Twitter for the first vote of our All Time XI as we ask, who is Ireland’s greatest ever goalkeeper?

1. Shay Given (1996–2016) 134 caps

The Lifford man was quite correctly described as genuine world class in his prime. He was an excellently agile shot stopper with brilliant reflexes. After starting his career at Celtic, he had a brief spell at Blackburn Rovers (during which he also had loan periods at Sunderland and Swindon Town). He joined Newcastle United in 1997 for a fee of £1.5 million. After a 12-year stay on Tyneside, he then joined Manchester City. Following City, he played for Aston Villa, Stoke City and Middlesbrough. He gained his first international cap in 1996 and played at the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea. An injury plagued Given played during Ireland’s dismal showing in Euro 2012 and he was also a member of the squad at Euro 2016 (but did not play in any of Ireland’s four matches at the tournament). He is the second-highest capped Ireland player (after Robbie Keane) and he announced his international retirement in July 2016 (having briefly retired previously in 2012). He won 134 caps for his country, keeping an impressive 52 clean sheets.


2. Pat Bonner (1981-1996) 80 caps

Another Donegal native. Bonner is a cultural icon for his role in some of the most memorable moments in Irish sporting history (think the decisive penalty shootout save from Romanian Daniel Timofte in the second round of the 1990 World Cup). Bonner was a one club man, playing 642 times for Glasgow Celtic where he won four League Titles, three Scottish Cups and a League Cup winners medal. For the Boys in Green, Bonner played at Euro 88, Italia 90 and USA 94. He played a starring role in the famous 1-0 win over England at Euro 88. In Italia 90 he was one of Irelands most important players during the tournament (the look of determination on his face as his long punt down the field led to Kevin Sheedy’s equaliser against England in Cagliari!). Although his error gifted Holland’s Wim Jonk a goal in the second round of World Cup 1994, his heroics during a golden period for Irish soccer will forever ensure his place in sporting folklore.


3. Alan Kelly Senior (1956-1973) 47 caps

Kelly started his career at Bray Wanderers and then Drumcondra (where he won an FAI Cup winners medal in 1957 and a League Championship in 1958). In 1960 he moved to Preston North End where he became a club legend, making 513 appearances for the side keeping 126 clean sheets, which is a club record. For the national team, he unfortunately never played at a major tournament. He won the first of his 47 caps in a 3-0 win over the then current World Champions West Germany, and he won his second cap the following year in a World Cup qualifier against England. He then captained the side in a 1972 qualifier against the Soviet Union. If Kelly had played in the modern era he surely would have won much more than his 47 caps. His son Alan Kelly Junior (another excellent goalkeeper) followed in his father’s footsteps playing for both Preston and Ireland (winning 34 caps).



4. Darren Randolph (2012-2020) 50 caps

Born in Bray, Randolph started out at Ardmore Rovers before moving across the water to Charlton Athletic. There then followed spells at Welling United, Accrington Stanley and Gillingham. A move to SPL side Motherwell followed in July 2010. After making 111 appearances for the Steelmen, he transferred to Birmingham City (making 91 appearances). Next up was the first of two spells at West Ham United (either side of 106 appearances for Middlesbrough). Randolph represented Ireland at numerous underage levels and made his full international debut in a friendly win over Oman in September 2012. On 8th October 2015 Randolph replaced Shay Given as a substitute against Germany in a 2016 European Championship qualifying match in Dublin and provided the assist for Shane Long’s famous goal as Ireland won 1-0 to propel themselves towards the finals. In said finals, Randolph played every match including the famous win against Italy in Lille to secure a passage through to the second-round game against France. A cool and laid-back customer, the multi-talented Randolph has also represented Ireland at Basketball.



5. David Forde (2011-2016) 24 caps

Born in Galway, Forde played for his hometown club for two seasons before a move to Barry Town in Wales and then to West Ham. He failed to make a single appearance for West Ham and after loan spells with Derry City and Barnet, he returned to the League of Ireland for a second spell with Galway United and then a permanent move to Derry City. 2007 brought a move to Cardiff City (and loan moves to Luton Town and Bournemouth). Following that he moved to Millwall where he played 299 games over 8 seasons, then he had a stint at Portsmouth before finishing his career at Cambridge United. In 2013 Forde became the oldest player to make his competitive debut for Ireland when he played against Sweden at the age of 33. A steady and assured presence between the sticks, Forde played in some memorable matches including a 1-1 draw against Germany in Gelsenkirchen in October 2014. Despite starting the UEFA 2016 qualifying campaign as Irelands first choice goalkeeper, Forde was overlooked by Manager Martin O’Neill for the finals squad. This is a decision that bitterly disappointed him, but which he took with great dignity. The likeable Forde is now a High-Performance Consultant lending his support and experience to current professionals.



Would you suggest any other keepers for the list? Let us know your thoughts!

James, The Green Machine Podcast

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17 thoughts on “Ireland’s top 5 goalkeepers”

  1. Gotta be either Shay or Bonner… Maybe big Packie for the penalty shoot out vs Romania

    1. Alan Kelly

      Packie let in 9 penalties in the Scottish cup final a few weeks before. On the law of averages, he had to finally save one. A bang average keeper that cost us against Italy in 1990, Poland in 1991 and Holland in 1994

  2. Packie was an excellent shot-stopper & organised his defence very well. His very likeable personality & certain big performances make him the sentimental choice. However as Alan points out, his handling could be suspect & the backpass rule change finished him. He was lucky to be 1st choice in America. Shay had his shortcomings too but was genuinely world class for easily 10 yrs & probably stayed on the Toon too long. Shay by a distance, with Packie & the criminally underused Alan Kelly Jr. joint 2nd..

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