Here are some suggestions for Ireland’s finest ever right back (in no particular order). *Please note in order to avoid a riot, Denis Irwin will be featured with the left backs!*
1. Seamus Coleman (2011–present) 67 caps 1 goal
Hailing from Killybegs, Coleman started his career at Sligo Rovers before moving to England to sign for Everton in 2009 (the £60,000 transfer fee must surely represent one of the best value transfers in the history of the English Premier League). He has amassed nearly 400 appearances for the Toffees over a 14-year spell at the club and 67 caps and counting for Ireland. Coleman has captained both his club and international side and he has shown leadership qualities in abundance. He even overcame personal adversity after a horror leg break in a World Cup Qualifier against Wales in 2017. Quick, skilful, and hardworking, Coleman has rightly earned respect as one of Irelands finest ever defenders. Quite simply he sets the standards, and the rest follow.
2. Paddy Mulligan (1969-1979) 50 caps 1 goal
Mulligan began his career with a brief spell at Bohemians before moving to Shamrock Rovers where he won four FAI Cups. In 1969 he joined Chelsea for a fee of £17,500. Two years later he won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup, making a late substitute appearance in the final win against Real Madrid. In 1972 he left for a Crystal Palace, staying with the South London club for three seasons, before being signed by West Brom (by a certain Johnny Giles) where he made 109 appearances. Mulligan then returned home to re-join Shamrock Rovers in 1979. For a decade Mulligan was a fixture at right back for Ireland and surely would have won much more than his 50 caps in the modern era.
3. Gary Kelly (1994-2003) 52 caps 2 goals
Kelly was originally a striker for Drogheda United and Home Farm before joining Leeds United. A one club man in England, Kelly made 531 appearances for Leeds over a 15-year period (one of only ten players to make over 500 appearances for Leeds United). Making his debut in the 1991-92 season Kelly became a fixture in the side during the 1993-94 season, succeeding Mel Sterland as the regular right back and then progressing on to become a future captain of the club. Kelly played at both the 1994 and 2002 World Cups for Ireland. One of the “three amigos” alongside Phil Babb and Jason McAteer, Kelly may have a reputation as a prankster and a joker, but don’t be fooled, this guy was a serious player!
4. Stephen Carr (1999-2007) 44 caps 0 goals
Born in Dublin, Carr moved as 15-year-old from Stella Maris to Tottenham Hotspur (signed by then Manager Ossie Ardiles). He picked up a League Cup winners medal in 1999, and after making 226 appearances, he then moved to Newcastle United for a fee of £2 million. After amassing 78 appearances for the Toon, Carr initially retired in December 2008, only to begin training with Birmingham City in February 2009 with a view to coming out of retirement (signing a contract until the end of that season). Following Birmingham’s promotion to the Premier League, Carr signed a two-year deal with the club. He captained the team to victory in the 2011 League Cup Final as Birmingham famously defeated Arsenal 2-1 (he played every single match that season). He finally retired in 2013. Carr unfortunately missed out on the 2002 World Cup through injury, but he was undoubtedly one of the leading right backs in the Premier League in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
5. Steve Finnan (2000-2008) 53 caps 2 goals
How about this for a stat? Steve Finnan is the only player ever to have played in the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, all four levels of the English League and the Football Conference! Born in Limerick, he moved to Chelmsford at a young age. In a stellar career Finnan played for Welling United, Birmingham City, Notts County, Fulham, Espanyol, Portsmouth and Liverpool (where he won the Champions League in the famous 2005 final against AC Milan). Finnan made his Ireland debut in 2000 against Greece and nailed down his place in the team by supplying the cross for Jason McAteer to score the only goal in a crucial 1-0 home win against the Netherlands in September 2001. Finnan also appeared in all of Irelands games in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. A seriously steady and reliable player, Finnan could genuinely be described as Mr Dependable.
So, who is Ireland’s best right back? Let us know your thoughts!
James, The Green Machine Podcast