The 15 Best Ever Professional Athletes of Irish Descent

Identifying the Best Athletes of Irish Descent

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St. Patrick's Day is now less than a week away, and as a result many people of Irish descent all around the world are preparing for parties and taking a look back at their heritage. Whether it be people who actually live in Ireland, Irish-Americans or other Irish people, they are all united in remembrance of St. Patrick.

Keeping this look at Irish history and St. Patrick's Day in mind, I have formed a list of the 15 best ever Irish athletes.

15. Clint Dempsey

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15. Clint Dempsey

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Clint Dempsey is a star attacking midfielder for Seattle Sounders FC, and he has also made over 100 appearances for the USMNT, including going to the 2006 and 2010 World Cup. Dempsey finds his Irish heritage from his grandparents, who were first generation immigrants from Ireland.

14. Rory McIlroy

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14. Rory McIlroy

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Rory McIlroy is actually from Northern Ireland, and he has made the nation proud throughout his golfing career. McIlroy has 11 career professional wins, including one at the U.S. Open, and he won the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award in 2012. At 24 this is a great resume, and McIlroy could already be regarded as the best Irish golfer ever.

13. Jimmy Connors

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13. Jimmy Connors

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Jimmy Connors may have been born in the U.S., but his hard nosed attitude and affinity to curse at line judges on the tennis court showed he is as Irish as anyone born in Ireland. Connors had a magnificent career on the tennis court, as he won eight career grand slam titles, 109 total professional titles and he was rewarded with a spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1998.

12. Kevin McHale

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12. Kevin McHale

Kevin McHale boston celtics ireland
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Many people assume that Kevin McHale is Irish simply because he made his name playing for the Boston Celtics, and they are correct because as he gets this heritage through his father. On the court McHale would signify the hard work and fight that all Irish people are known for, and he was rewarded with seven NBA All-Star Game appearances, three NBA Titles and a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

11. Robbie Keane

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11. Robbie Keane

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Robbie Keane is from the Republic of Ireland, and he has represented the nation exceptionally on the soccer field. Keane first made his name as a prolific goal scorer in England for Wolves, Coventry City and Tottenham Hotspur, and over the last few years he has taken this stateside with the Los Angeles Galaxy. On the international stage, Keane has scored the most goals ever for an Ireland international, a total the 33-year-old is surely proud of.

10. Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
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10. Patrick Kane

Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks
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Aside from just having an Irish sounding name, Patrick Kane is actually Irish and he grew up in a heavily Irish district of South Buffalo. Kane has since become one of the best players in the NHL, as he has won the Stanley Cup twice, one Conn Smythe Trophy and has 491 career points in 511 games during his career.

9. Nolan Ryan

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9. Nolan Ryan

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Nolan Ryan is widely known as having the most strikeouts and no-hitters in MLB history, and as a result he was an obvious choice to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame upon becoming eligible in 1999. What many do not know is that Ryan comes from Irish heritage, and he is actually a member of the Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame as well.

8. Whitey Ford

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8. Whitey Ford

Whitey Ford New York Yankees
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Whitey Ford may be one of the most Irish sounding names in sports history, and the former New York Yankees pitcher has the heritage to back it up. Both of Ford's parents are Irish, and he made them proud by making 10 All-Star Games, winning six World Series championships, one Cy Young Award and being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

7. John McEnroe

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7. John McEnroe

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Anyone who has seen John McEnroe on the tennis court knows that he has a classic Irish temper, and he got it through his father's bloodlines. McEnroe was made famous for yelling at chair umpires during his career, although his seven career Grand Slam victories allowed many people to look over these temper flares. There are few people of American descent who embodied the Irish spirit like McEnroe does.

6. Roy Keane

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6. Roy Keane

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Roy Keane is actually from Ireland, although he did make his name playing club soccer for Manchester United in England. Keane was one of the most hard-working, gritty soccer players you will ever see, and for many years he embodied this spirit for the Ireland National Soccer Team. Keane is one of the most decorated athletes ever from Ireland and surely will be celebrating on St. Patrick's Day.

5. Tom Brady

Tom Brady
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5. Tom Brady

Tom Brady
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Tom Brady receives his Irish bloodlines from his father, and anyone who watches the New England Patriots quarterback on a weekly basis knows he has the temper and fight of a natural born Irishmen. Brady is one of the best quarterbacks ever, as he has made nine Pro-Bowl appearances, won three Super Bowls and thrown 359 career touchdowns during his career.

4. Derek Jeter

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4. Derek Jeter

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Derek Jeter grew up in a very structured household as a kid, and his mother instilled her Irish fight in him to never give up or even say the word can't. As Jeter went on to become one of the bets shortstops in MLB history, it became clear that he never gives up and it paid off. The 39-year-old has made 13 All-Star Game appearances, won five World Series titles, compiled 3,316 hits and has secured a one-way ticket to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

3. Ted Williams

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3. Ted Williams

Ted Williams Boston Red Sox
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Ted Williams is commonly known for having Latino ancestry, but few know that he was actually half Irish. This fit in perfectly while playing for the Boston Red Sox, as the heavily Irish city came to recognize Williams as their natural born son, and he took up the mantle in great fashion. During his Hall of Fame MLB career, Teddy Ballgame compiled 19 All-Star Game appearances, two American League MVP Awards and 521 home runs.

2. George Best

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2. George Best

George Best Ireland
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George Best was born and raised in Northern Ireland, and he later went on to become one of the best soccer players in the world. Best played as a attacking midfielder and was known for his graceful running ability, passing style and pure ability to beat defenders. Best would make his name with Manchester United, where he would score 181 goals in 474 games and would win the Ballon d'Or once.

1. Bobby Orr

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1. Bobby Orr

Bobby Orr Boston Bruins Ireland
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Bobby Orr was the grandson of a direct immigrant from Ireland, and he is another player who represented the heavily Irish city that is Boston. While playing for the Bruins, Orr became the best defenseman ever, as he complied 915 points in 657 games, won two Stanley Cups and really set too many records to count. Orr is arguably the best hockey player ever, as his mix of speed, tenacity and ability with the puck made him impossible to stop.


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