On St. Patrick’s Day, this article delves into the enduring relationship between Arsenal and its Irish supporters, exploring historical connections, key figures, and the widespread fan base across Ireland, North and South.

It was initially published a couple of years ago and has been updated, if you notice any player’s we’re missed, please do let us know.


Introduction to Arsenal’s Irish connection

celebrating arsenals irish connection
St Patrick’s Day

While for most people under a certain age this seems to manifest itself in donning comedy headwear and imbibing dangerous quantities of Guinness, for the rest of us it has other connections

My own relationship is defined largely by my possession of a surname oft associated with the southern end of Ireland and my mother’s transportation from Trinidad to Dublin before the age of 10. Quite a shock for her, but at least it gave Phil Lynott some competition…

Of course, the fact you are reading this here, means you are rather more interested in Arsenal Football Club than my personal lineage, and you will be rewarded accordingly for enduring my wittering. Any fan of certain vintage will have some awareness of the relationship between The Arsenal and the Emerald Isle, but there will be a generation or two for whom this is a mystery.

Everyone knows about the obvious Irish connection with Glasgow Celtic, and Manchester United and Liverpool have done a great job of selling their ‘Irish-ness’, aided by both their proximity to Ireland and their recent success. But most corners of Ireland have long maintained a loyal core of Arsenal support, and it would be fair to say that Irishmen have played a significant part in many key parts of Arsenal’s history.

Today, the club’s playing staff has no Irishmen, and on the coaching staff there was only Gerry Payton until recently, working with the club’s goalkeepers while former youth product Kwame Ampadu worked as an Academy Coach. Those supporters with a more encyclopaedic knowledge may recall League cup appearances for Graham Barrett and Anthony Stokes in the last 15 years, as well as the much maligned Islington born Eddie McGoldrick in the dying days of the George Graham era. Daniel Ballard was also at the club for a while but never broke through to the first team.

But in the days before the birth of the Premier League, the Arsenal first team squad had always had a smattering of Irishmen. As many as 40 have troubled the club statisticians over the years. From goal scoring debutant, Belfast-born Patrick Farrell, who joined in 1897 and the nomadic Tommy Shanks, who scored 24 goals in 1903-04, taking Arsenal to the top flight for the first time, all the way through to David O’Leary, who retired in 1993, and is, lest we forget, still the club’s record appearance holder.

Before the rules regarding youth player recruitment for English clubs changed in relatively recent years, Arsenal had for decades made a point of scouring Ireland for the best young talent it could find as a key part of its youth recruitment. Not entirely dissimilar to Arsene Wenger’s approach with the Barcelona youth team.