Brighton's Irish contingent from the 1983 FA Cup final

Manchester United also had Irish talent on the field in both games

BY Raf Diallo 15:15 Tuesday 18 April 2017, 15:15 18 Apr 2017

Manchester United's Norman Whiteside and Michael Robinson of Brighton and Hove Albion in action during the FA Cup Final at Wembley in London. PA/PA Archive/PA Images

The city of Brighton has much to celebrate after the local club ended a 34 year wait to return to the English top flight.

Brighton & Hove Albion had not played in the top division since 1983 and in that time had even fallen back to the bottom tier of the Football League at one point.

But under former Ireland defender and assistant coach Chris Hughton, the Seagulls will be playing Premier League football next season after achieving promotion from the Championship.

In 1983, they finished bottom of the then First Division but remarkably made a run to the FA Cup final in the same season where they faced Ron Atkinson's Manchester United.

It was Man United who came out on top in a replay. After a 2-2 draw in the first clash at Wembley, United ran out 4-0 winners at the second attempt five days later.

Both sides went into those fixtures featuring significant contingents of Irish talent but here are the Irishmen who took Brighton to within reach of a first major title.

Gary Howlett

At right midfield for Brighton in both games, the 54 year old Dubliner would win one cap for Ireland the following year in a 1-0 friendly win over China, coming on as a substitute.

He would set up the first goal in the 2-2 draw with a delicately chipped ball to the back post for Scottish forward Gordon Smith to head in.

Howlett would later return to Ireland first as a player and then in a coaching capacity.

He became Killester United manager in June 2016.

Tony Grealish 

The former Ireland international captained Brighton in the final and replay at a time when he was a regular for the Irish national team.

After leaving Brighton in 1984, he would go on to play for West Brom and Manchester City.

Grealish sadly passed away in April 2013.

Michael Robinson 

The Leicester born former Ireland forward would win 24 caps between 1980 and 1986. He thought he had assisted the winner towards the end of the 2-2 draw but Gordon Smith's effort was stopped at point blank range by Manchester United goalkeeper Gary Bailey.

Robinson would join Liverpool in 1983 but only remained for a season. He finished his career in Spain with Pamplona based club Osasuna and has retained his ties to La Liga where he has long been a pundit.

Gerry Ryan

A substitute in the '83 final, Ryan's career unfortunately came to an end not long after as the result of a broken leg. 

He would later briefly serve as assistant manager to former Ireland team-mate Liam Brady at Brighton. He has strong connections with current Brighton manager and former Ireland colleague Hughton, although as fate would have it, it was a tackle from the latter's younger brother that led to Ryan's broken leg.

The Manchester United team also had a host of Irish players with Kevin Moran, Frank Stapleton and Ashley Grimes all featuring.


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