Northern Ireland’s Five Greatest Footballers of All-Time

Northern Ireland have often punched above their weight on the international stage

George Best is commonly acknowledged as one of the best players of all-time.

Despite a population of under two million people, Northern Ireland has produced some fantastic footballers over the years.

We have selected our greatest five of all-time, with special mentions to the likes of Norman Whiteside, Aaron Hughes, Jonny Evans, Sammy McIlroy, David McCreery and Danny Blanchflower, who didn’t make the top five.

5) David Healy

The former Leeds United, Preston North End, Sunderland and Fulham striker is his country’s leading goalscorer, with 36 goals in 95 appearances.

Healy played for his country at Under-15, 16, 18 and 21 level before making his full debut in February 2000 – when he scored on his debut against Luxembourg.

The diminutive forward will fondly be remembered by his countrymen for scoring the winner against England in a World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park in 2005.

Later that year, Healy also scored three goals against Spain in September 2006 and remains the only Northern Ireland player to score more than one hat-trick in two separate games.

4) Gerry Armstrong

The scorer of Northern Ireland’s most famous goal had to be on the list and Armstrong has a place in his country’s folklore after scoring at the World Cup.

The 25th of June, 1982 will be a date that all Northern Ireland fans (of a certain age) will remember, with Armstrong firing home the winning goal against Spain in Valencia.

Fifth in his country’s leading scorer list and 22nd in the appearance list, that goal helped earn the striker a move to La Liga side Real Mallorca.

3) Steven Davis

The Rangers midfielder is comfortably his country’s leading appearance maker, with 130 matches and 12 goals for Northern Ireland.

Born in Ballymena, Davis made his international debut against Canada in February 2005 and is still playing for his country at the age of 36.

The former Aston Villa and Southampton ace has received an MBE for services to football and could yet become the first Northern Irishman to reach 150 caps.

2) Pat Jennings

Northern Ireland have had some very good goalkeepers over the years – Maik Taylor, Roy Carroll and Harry Gregg to name a few – but Pat Jennings was a class apart.

The shot-stopper was one of very few players to play for both Tottenham and Arsenal and the man from Newry made over 750 club appearances – he also played 119 times for his country.

Regularly described by the over-60 fans by one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time, Jennings kept 45 clean sheets for NI between the years of 1964 and 1986.

He also helped his country to twice win the British Home Championship in 1980 and 1984.

1) George Best

Commonly described as one of the greatest players of his generation, George Best would be right at the top of most people’s list of greatest Northern Ireland stars.

There is no doubting his football genius and the real shame for Northern Ireland fans is that they only got to see him play 37 times for his country.

Best made his international debut in 1964 and played his last game for Northern Ireland in 1997, but never got to play at a major tournament.

In those 37 appearances, the Manchester United legend bagged nine goals in total, with four of those coming in one game against Cyprus.

Warren has been employed as a sport journalist for over two decades and as well as years of written experience, has also worked in other areas of the media including radio and television. Football has always been his number one passion, but has also commentated and written on a number of other sports including golf, cricket, tennis and rugby.
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