Great Irish People

Irish people have a great affiliation with sport, we’re a real sporting nation. As we have our own Gaelic sports in Hurling and Gaelic Football we’re passionate about sport and our sporting people. I will again be looking at the sports people from Ireland that made an impression on the World Sporting stage more than the Irish stage.


  1. Padraig Harrington

Padraig Harrington is without question the greatest Irish golfer the South of Ireland has ever seen. That is not to say someday Rory McIlroy will not be the greatest the island has ever seen. But as we are doing ‘Great Irish People’ we cannot include McIlroy as he is from Northern Ireland.

He has won three major championship, The Open Championship in 2007 and 2008 and the PGA Championship, also in 2008. He has spent over 300 weeks in the top-10 of the Official World Golf Ranking, and reached a career-high ranking of third in July 2008.

In a time when the US Golfers were winning all the majors, Harrington was a pioneer for European Golf and led the way when he won in 2008. He opened the floodgates for Europeans to win majors and gain confidence that they too could replicate him in the following years.

The measure of the man is after he won in 2008, he kept on plugging away in the golfing world and didn’t win again till 2015 and then this year he won again in the Portuguese Open. For a player to be out of the winner’s circle and come back after that long is astonishing.

Overall, he has 6 wins in the PGA Tour, 15 wins in the European Tour and 15 wins in the Other tours. That is a very impressive record for any golfer.

  1. Roy Keane

Manchester United’s and Ireland’s Captain fantastic. The Corkman started his career with Cobh Ramblers in Cork before Brian Clough took a gamble on the aggressive Irishman and brought him across the water to Nottingham Forest.

He was with Forest from 1990-1993 and then he got his big move to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 1993. He was a quiet, unassuming guy when he joined United, but he soon changed and turned into the leader of the Class of 92’.

When the older brigade such as Bruce, Pallister, Hughes, Cantona and McClair all let United, Keane was then the Leader of the team.

His finest hour came in the red shirt in the European semi-final against fierce rivals Juventus. United were down 2-0 after 20 minutes and Keane received a yellow card so he would miss the final. What happened next went down in Manchester United folklore as one of the most selfless and driven performances ever seen in a United Jersey. Keane himself pulled a goal back and dragged his team into the European final and the rest is history.

He is the joint-most successful Irish footballer of all time, having won 19 major trophies, 17 of which came at Manchester United, in his club career.

  1. Ron Deleaney

When it comes to sporting achievements, you can’t look much further past a Gold Medal at the Olympics. To add to that Athletics and more to the point running is one of the most competitive and hardest sports to be successful in. That is why Ronnie Deleaney is Number 3 on the list.

He first came to prominence in 1954 when he got to the 1954 European 800m final, but then in 1956 he became the 7th runner ever to break the four-minute mile. But he still struggled to make the Olympics team.

He qualified for the 1500m final in which John Landy was the favourite and he stayed with Landy until the final lap, when Deleaney suddenly started sprinting for the line and left Landy in his wake and in return not only was he the 2nd Irishman ever to win a Gold Medal but he also set a new Olympic record.

He would be Irelands last Olympic champion for 36 years which just shows how incredible his feat really was.

Delany won the bronze medal in the 1500m event at the 1958 European Athletics Championships.

Delany continued his running career in North America, winning four successive AAU titles in the mile, adding to his total of four Irish national titles, and three NCAA titles. He was next to unbeatable on indoor tracks over that period, which included a 40-race winning streak. He broke the World Indoor Mile Record on three occasions. In 1961 Delany won the gold medal in the World University games in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The sentiment surrounding Delany’s Olympic victory is perhaps best described by Tony O’Reilly in his forward to Ronnie Delany’s book “Staying the Distance” where he states: “Delany’s win in Melbourne… made us all feel that we had achieved something unique, that we could compete against the best in the world.”

  1. Brian O’Driscoll

Brian O’Driscoll was a Rugby Union player with Leinster and Ireland for the best part of 15 years. He’s regarded as one of the greatest Rugby players of all time.

He captained Ireland from 2003-2012 and captained the British and Irish Lions in 2005.

In 2000, O’Driscoll made his mark in the World rugby scene when he scored a Hat-trick of tries in a Six Nations Championship victory against France in Paris, propelling Ireland to their first win in Paris since 1972.

He is Irelands highest try scorer of all time and the highest try scorer in the Six Nations history. He won the Six Nations player of the tournament on three different occasions in 2006, 2007 and 2009. He was Voted as ‘Rugby World’ player of the decade and the 2nd most capped player of all time.

Also, his Team achievements include three Heineken Cups with Leinster along with One Grand Slam and One Six Nations Championship with Ireland.

From both Personal and Team achievements his career has been second to none.

  1. Brian Cody

Cody is the manager of the most successful Hurling team of all time. This is a sport in Ireland but from a personal perspective he has or had all the attributes to become a great manager across any sport.

He took over Kilkenny in 1999 when they hadn’t won an All-Ireland for 6 years and now he has presided over the most dominant team in the sports history.

I have no doubt if Cody was managing Manchester United, Chicago Bulls or The New England Patriots he would have been a success.

As a player, he was uncompromising and won 3 All Irelands and won a personal tally of 3 All Star Awards. It’s as a manager where he made his name though.

There was no one bigger than the team and star players came and go but the one constant with the team was Cody.

He has won 11 All Irelands and 15 Leinster titles in 17 years as manager of Kilkenny. That in any sport is remarkable but Like Sir Alex Ferguson over a 17-year period is nothing but astonishing.

There have been many great Irish managers in Rugby, Soccer and Gaelic Football but Cody is the Messiah.