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Top Ten: Sunderland’s best Republic of Ireland players

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Sunderland’s connection with the Republic of Ireland is something that has become very prominent since the turn of the century. Today we countdown the top ten Irish players to play for the club. Who are your favourites?

REP OF IRELAND V CYPRUS Photo by Haydn West - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

10. Aiden McGeady

A divisive figure for club and country, McGeady is a player blessed with all the ability in the world but the winger can be a frustrating figure. A return of 5 goals in 93 games for country perhaps highlighting his lack of consistency.

Signed from Everton by Simon Grayson after his successful loan spell under his stewardship at Preston, big things were expected from Aiden in 2017 on our return to the second tier. While we all know how wretched this season turned out to be, Aiden’s return of 7 goals and 5 assists in a struggling team was respectable.

Sunderland retaining McGeady on the ‘adventure’ to the third tier was seen as one of the best pieces of business last season. Most certainly one of the most talented footballers to play in League One, there were countless times last season that he saved our skin. He was Jack Ross’ talisman and will be remembered fondly for his two goals at Wembley in the Checkatrade final.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Checkatrade Trophy Final Photo by James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

9. David Connolly

A very underrated footballer and a very big pair of gonads for the key penalties he scored for us in that promotion season under Roy Keane - Derby County and Burnley at the SoL spring to mind.

Granted, Connolly did not spend a significant amount of time with us, yet his contribution to the club in that time cannot be underestimated. He was Roy Keane’s big money signing on that bizzare Deadline Day in August 2006, and he certainly was worth the money as he ended up being our top goalscorer that season.

Never really got a fair chance in the Premier League with us but will be fondly remembered.

Barnsley v Sunderland Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

8. Daryl Murphy

‘’6ft, but 5ft10 when he jumps”, were the words of a Station taxi man on one of my many trips over - poor Murph.

Granted, Daryl Murphy was not the most outstanding footballers to play for the club, and who can forget the famous picture with Shaun Wright Phillips out-jumping the big Irishman? That being said, he had his moments.

That promotion season under Roy Keane, that goal against Wigan and that goal against Midlesborough to secure safety were all big moments in our recent history. I think he has earned his place and let’s not forget, he only cost us £100,000.

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7. Kevin Kilbane

Tin hat on here, but ‘Killa’ experienced a bit of a mixed bag to say the least during his time at the SoL, only showing glimpses of the ability that was realised later in his career for club and country. He has said in more recent times that he found playing in the North East quite difficult.

He became Sunderland’s third biggest signing ever when Peter Reid signed him for £2.5 million in 1999 from West Brom. He had an immediate impact when creating the winning goal for Kevin Phillips on his debut against Southampton.

In 113 games, Kilbane notched up eight goals; not a great return for a left winger. As the team’s form dipped, so did Kilbane’s, and he quickly became a scapegoat for the side’s overall poor performances. His time at Sunderland inevitably came to and end after giving the ‘V’ sign to fans during a pre-season game.

A player that had great ability but, unfortunately for us, we never saw it consistently enough.

Kevin Kilbane Getty Images

6. Andy Reid

“He’s Andy Reid, he plays on left wing, he loves McDonalds and Burger King!”

An absolute wand of a left foot, Reid’s natural talent and ability could never be questioned. Signed from Charlton for £5 million, he introduced himself to Sunderland fans with that 25 yard cross field pass for Daryl Murphy’s ping against Wigan at the SoL in 2008. This was followed up weeks later by the crucial last minute winner against West Ham, cementing his place in the hearts of the Sunderland faithful.

Fitness was always something that Andy Reid struggled with, but he returned to pre season training in 2009 in possibly the best shape of his entire career.

Steve Bruce gave him his first start in Sunderland’s 4-1 win against Norwich in League Cup. Reid starred in that game and kicked on from there for most of that season putting in some magnificent performances.

Birmingham City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

5. Gary Breen

Oh Captain, my Captain!

Signed for free from West Ham United, Gary Breen joined Sunderland at a rocky time in the club’s history. After being just relegated with the lowest points total in Premier League history, Mick McCarthy was attempting to put a capable squad together on a shoestring budget. Breen was a key signing that summer as Sunderland got to grips to life in the second tier.

Sunderland finished 3rd that season, losing out to Crystal Palace in the play off semi finals. The following season, himself and Steven Caldwell developed a great partnership at the heart of the Sunderland defence as Breen captained the team to winning the league and gaining promotion.

As we all know, Sunderland’s return to the Premier League short lived with another record low points total, but Breen will go down as one of the few Sunderland captains to lift silverware in the club’s history.

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4. John O’Shea

Mr. versatile, Mr. reliable, and a born leader.

John O’ Shea spent over seven years at the club, making over 200 appearances after his move from Manchester United. In the early days of his Sunderland career, O’ Shea started games at right back but this notion was swiftly scrapped after his clear lack of pace was apparent.

‘Sheasy’ moved into centre half and was a consistent performer. Over the years, many managers attempted to oust him from the starting eleven but he constantly wriggled his way back into the side, playing an integral part in many of our great escapes and also captaining the side to a Wembley final in the league cup in 2014.

Don’t rule out his return to the SOL as manager someday.

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3. Ambrose Fogarty

A name some might not be familiar with, Dublin-born Ambrose Fogarty amassed a very successful career with Sunderland. Signed by Alan Brown for £3000 in 1957, he went on to make 174 appearances and score 44 goals in his six-year stint at the club.

A versatile figure, he was capable of playing as an inside forward or in midfield. Fogarty suffered relegation in his first season with the club but was a resilient figure and scored on his Roker Park debut against Chelsea.

He played alongside some of Sunderland’s most famous figures like Charlie Hurley and Brian Clough and earned 11 international caps.

Ambrose Fogarty passed away at the age of 82 in January 2016.

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2. Niall Quinn

Mr Sunderland. Niall Quinn has done it all. Striker. Goalkeeper. Chairman, and manager.

There is not much that can be added to what has already been said about this man. Quinn joined the club with his career apparently under threat, but the arrival of Kevin Phillips reinvigorated his career and also, in turn, created one of the Premier League’s most notorious partnerships.

After retirement, he came back to save the club and brought some wonderful moments and memories to fans both young and old.

A statue in the city is only a matter of time.

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1. Charlie Hurley

The King.

Charlie Hurley arrived at Roker Park in 1957 and went on to make over 400 appearances for the club over 12 years. A commanding centre half, Charlie had massive physical presence but also great ability with the ball at his feet. Well known for his heading ability, Charlie scored 26 goals for the club.

He was part of the back five that included Jim Montgomery, Cecil Irwin, Len Ashurst, Martin Harvey and Jim McNab that was known in the late sixties as one of the best defences around.

Charlie was voted Sunderland’s player of the century in 1979.

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