We take a look at the ten greatest-ever players to represent the Irish women’s soccer team.
The current Girls in Green achieved an unprecedented feat by qualifying for their first World Cup – the first World Cup that any Irish team has qualified for since 2002.
While they faltered at the tournament’s group stage, Vera Pauw and her team – and, indeed, the nation – should be proud.
To celebrate their achievement, we look at the ten greatest-ever Irish women’s soccer players.
- We take a look at the ten greatest-ever players to represent the Irish women’s soccer team.
- 10. Megan Connolly – an important player for Vera Pauw’s team
- 9. Leanne Kiernan – Liverpool’s number nine
- 8. Anne O’Brien – the first Irish woman to play professional football outside of Ireland
- 7. Áine O’Gorman – 119 appearances for the Girls in Green
- 6. Niamh Fahey – three-time winner of the FAI Women’s Senior International Player of the Year
- 5. Denise O’Sullivan – one of the greatest-ever Irish women’s soccer players
- 4. Ciara Grant – a hero on and off the pitch
- 3. Katie McCabe – the youngest captain in the team’s history
- 2. Olivia O’Toole – Ireland’s top scorer
- 1. Emma Byrne – an Irish footballing legend
10. Megan Connolly – an important player for Vera Pauw’s team
Born in Cork, Megan Connolly started playing for College Corinthians at the age of six, for whom she scored in the Women’s Munster Senior Cup final in 2014.
The following year, she obtained a scholarship to Florida State University and played for the Florida State Seminoles. During her four-year spell in the States, she helped the team win the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship along with three ACC Women’s Soccer Tournaments.
She joined Brighton & Hove Albion in 2019 and has become an important player for the Seagulls and for Vera Pauw’s national team.
9. Leanne Kiernan – Liverpool’s number nine
Centre forward Leanne Kiernan chose soccer as a youngster but was also an accomplished cross-country runner and Gaelic football player.
A successful couple of years at Shelbourne saw Kiernan earn medals for the Women’s National League (WNL), the WNL Cup, and the FAI Women’s Cup before she moved to London to play for West Ham.
She joined Liverpool in 2021 and scored 13 goals for the Reds as they won the FA Women’s Championship to regain promotion to the Women’s Super League (WSL).
8. Anne O’Brien – the first Irish woman to play professional football outside of Ireland
Anne O’Brien became the first Irish female to play professional football outside of Ireland when she moved from Ballyfermot All-Stars to French side Stade de Reims in 1973.
However, she is best remembered for her time in Italy for the likes of Lazio and Napoli. During her time in Italy, she won the Italian League six times and the Italian Cup twice.
Unfortunately, a lack of funding for the women’s game made it difficult for her international career to continue when she moved to the continent. But she will always be remembered as a trailblazer for women’s soccer in Ireland.
7. Áine O’Gorman – 119 appearances for the Girls in Green
Áine O’Gorman has spent much of her career in Ireland, mostly with South Dublin club Peamount United. She currently plays for Shamrock Rovers.
During her career, she has won everything there is to win in Irish football and has made 119 appearances for the Girls in Green.
6. Niamh Fahey – three-time winner of the FAI Women’s Senior International Player of the Year
Niamh Fahey’s storied career has seen her play important roles for the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool. Her time with Arsenal was her most successful, winning several WSL titles and FA Women’s Cups with the Gunners.
She has earned over 100 caps for Ireland and has been named FAI Women’s Senior International Player of the Year on three occasions.
5. Denise O’Sullivan – one of the greatest-ever Irish women’s soccer players
Sixth on the list of all-time appearances for Ireland, Denise O’Sullivan can stake a claim as one of the greatest-ever Irish women’s soccer players. O’Sullivan has represented Ireland no fewer than 105 times, scoring 18 goals in the process.
4. Ciara Grant – a hero on and off the pitch
Over the course of 17 years, Ciara Grant earned 105 caps for Ireland and has captained the national team on a number of occasions.
As part of a dominant Arsenal team, Grant won the FA Women’s Premier League National Division nine times. Her proudest achievement, however, was winning the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2007 to complete an unprecedented quadruple with the London club.
3. Katie McCabe – the youngest captain in the team’s history
Katie McCabe will go down in Irish football history. In 2017, she became the youngest captain in the team’s history and in 2023, she scored the country’s first goal at the Women’s World Cup.
She has spent the lion’s share of her career at Arsenal – the most successful club in English women’s soccer. McCabe has won the FA Women’s Cup, the WSL, and two FA Women’s League Cups with the Gunners.
2. Olivia O’Toole – Ireland’s top scorer
Olivia O’Toole spent her entire career in Ireland, playing for the likes of Shamrock Rovers and St Catherine’s. Across her career, she won eight FAI Women’s Cup medals and nine League championships.
International teammate Emma Byrne named O’Toole one of the best players she had played with, along with football legend Kelly Smith. O’Toole’s 54 goals remain unsurpassed as the women’s team’s record, making her one of the greatest-ever Irish women’s soccer players.
1. Emma Byrne – an Irish footballing legend
Emma Byrne is Ireland women’s most capped player, appearing between the sticks on 134 occasions. She played alongside Ciara Grant in the great Arsenal team of the 2000s before finishing her career at Brighton.
Perhaps her greatest contribution to Irish women’s soccer, however, was a player revolt she led in 2017 to secure better working conditions for the women’s team. The protest earned the team regular match fees, win bonuses, and team clothing provisions.
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