Many English Professional Footballers with Irish roots, started out playing Gaelic Football and/or Hurling.
As part 2 of our series on 33 Famous Irish Sports Players and Celebrities play Gaelic Football and Hurling - here are 12 professionals you will know from English League Football sides, but had or have a hidden passion for Gaelic Football and Hurling.
English League Footballers
11. Jack Grealish
Plays for Aston Villa and played for Ireland at underage level, and now an English Senior declared footballer having featured in the recent Euro 2021 Final.
Grealish has stated "I wasn't really into other sports growing up but I loved Gaelic," Grealish said in an interview with the Times.
In 2009, Grealish scored a point representing Warwickshire GAA at Croke Park during half-time of the All-Ireland Senior Football.
Playing with Warwickshire GAA – Aston Villa were looking for him to stop playing GAA when he was young. “But when I was 13, Villa told me I need to stop because it's rough. I still played now and then until I was 15. It helped me develop. When I was young I was always playing above my age but I struggled physically. But getting kicked around at Gaelic, getting shoulder-barged, it helped”.
12. Niall Quinn
Irish International footballer, with Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland, and was ex-chairperson of Sunderland FC. He played for Republic of Ireland from 1986 to 2002. Niall Quinn played Gaelic football for Robert Emmets club from the Perrystown, Dublin 12. He also played underage football and hurling for Dublin, including the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Final in Croke aged 16, in 1983. He once captained an Irish GAA youth side on a tour to Australia, and was offered a professional contract to play Australian Rules Football, but opted for professional football, in England. He actually returned to Gaelic football, after retiring from Professional football, winning a Kildare junior C county title in 2008.
13. John O’Shea
– professional Irish International Footballer – played with Manchester United and Sunderland, winning the Premier League 5 times, the FA Cup, and the Champions League.
He grew up in Waterford, where O’Shea played GAA and represented De La Salle College in Gaelic football.
14. Seamus Coleman
Everton and Republic of Ireland defender
Having played Gaelic Football with Killybegs Donegal, - and is with the John Mitchels GFC club in Liverpool and suggested he may return to Gaelic Football after he retires Soccer.
15. Shane Long
played with Cork City, West Brom, Reading, Hull, Southamption and Bournemouth FC – as well as Republic of Ireland, scoring an unforgetable goal against Germany.
He was an underage star in Tipperary where he played hurling.
Long represented Tipperary in hurling, playing in two All-Ireland minor semi-finals
16. Kevin Doyle
Irish former professional striker who played with Wexford F.C. (formerly Wexford Youths), St Patrick's Athletic, and Cork City in Ireland before making his name at Reading, Wolves and in the MLS in USA with the Colorado Rapids.
In Gaelic football he played for Adamstown GAA Club and later with Good Counsel in New Ross. Kevin Doyle's father was a Wexford hurler and his mother and 2 aunts won all-Ireland Camogie medals with Wexford
17. Denis Irwin
Manchester United and Republic of Ireland. He played 56 times for Ireland; and 368 times for Man United.
He won 7 Premier League Titles, and a Champions League title.
Recently Alex Ferguson picked him out as one of 5 special talented players he had ever managed.
In his younger years, he played GAA with St Finbarr’s duel Club in Cork, where he excelled at both Hurling and Gaelic Football while going to school at Togher Boys' National School and Coláiste Chríost Rí. It is reported that he played at Croke Park several times, including having to mark Niall Quinn on one occasion.
18. Kevin Moran
played 231 matches for Manchester United, as well as Sporting Gijon and Blackburn Rovers. Man Utd 1978–1988, FA CUP winner 1983 and 1985. And was a central defender for Republic of Ireland under Jack Charlton, including the team that defeated England in Stuttgart in 1988.
He also excelled in Gaelic Football – winning two All-Ireland medals with Dublin in 1976 and 1977, and won an 1 All-Star.
19. Stephen Hunt
A professional footballer, he played 39 times for Republic of Ireland and played for Crystal Palace, Brentford, Reading, Hull City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Ipswich Town and Coventry City
He was a talented hurler, playing for Waterford hurlers at Under 15 and Under 16 level, and Hurling was his first love
20. David Meyler
Irish International and midfield for Sunderland, Hull City and Reading~
He’s from a strong Cork GAA family - David's father John won an All Ireland with Cork – and was the Cork hurling Manager 2018-19.
David played for St Michaels GAA Club
21. Neil Lennon
Made his name with Leicester City (170 appearances) and Celtic (214). He won 40 caps for Northern Ireland – winning the Scottish Premier League 5 times and a UEFA Cup Final Runner Up with Celtic, and the League Cup twice with Leicester City.
Lennon was a great forward in Gaelic Football for Armagh as well- and lined out in the 1989 Ulster minor final.
22. Martin O’Neill
Northern Ireland Professional Football who played with Nottingham Forest, Norwich City, Manchester City and Notts County from 1911 to 84; won 64 caps with Northern Ireland. He has managed Grantham Town, Wycombe Wanderers, Norwich City, Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland.
In 2013, O’Neill became Republic of Ireland manager (with Roy Keane as assistant), and led them to the 2016 UEFA European Championship defeating the reigning world champions, Germany in qualification process.
With his brothers Gerry and Leo (both went on to play on the Derry Senior team), Martin played Gaelic Football for the Pádraig Pearse's Kilrea, a club of which his father was a founding member. He also played at School St. Columb's College, Derry, and later at St. Malachy's College, Belfast. O’Neill played for Derry at Underage level including Minor, won the Ulster Minor title with Derry in 1970.
Bonus. Eamonn Dunphy – Irish Football Pundit and an Irish media personality, journalist, broadcaster, author, sports pundit and former professional footballer with Millwall and Republic of Ireland.
He grew up in a GAA house, and has spoken about his support for hurling and football.
“My father and brother were big into the Limerick Hurling team – the Makey brothers “– and my Dad was Kilkenny background, so in our house, hurling was a big thing. We followed Kilkenny hurlers and Dublin Footballers religiously. .. and went to Croke Park every Sunday in Summer." he stated.