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'An abomination' | Should Stephen Ireland be in the best-ever Irish Premier League XI?

Our own Colm Boohig had the difficult task of picking an all-time Premier League Irish starting t...

'An abomination' | Should Step...

'An abomination' | Should Stephen Ireland be in the best-ever Irish Premier League XI?

Our own Colm Boohig had the difficult task of picking an all-time Premier League Irish starting team, and the inclusion of Stephen Ireland in particular has divided opinion.

The former Aston Villa and Manchester City man only lined out for the Republic of Ireland six times, scoring four goals. However, Colm has seen enough in his Premier League performances to allow his fellow Corkman a place in his team.

We saw the full line-up revealed on OTB AM this morning, with Ger and Eoin taking great joy in picking it apart. The inclusion of Ireland in the midfield was an issue Ger wanted to get to straight away.

"I just want to get straight to the fact that you've put Stephen Ireland into your best-ever Irish Premier League eleven, and this is an abomination.

"There was a wet week where Stephen Ireland looked like he was going to be one of our best-ever players, and then his career completely de-railed, and he's got to take some sort of responsibility for elements of that.

"He was horribly unlucky with injuries as well, but there is no way that he should be in Ireland's best-ever Premier League eleven in central midfield. No way on Earth."

Colm was quick to defend a player who he felt showed enough talent to merit an inclusion.

"Hold on now a second. Let's take our personal opinion of Stephen Ireland himself aside, and let's judge Stephen Ireland the footballer. People think 'total waster, waste of talent, played six games for the Republic of Ireland only'. We all know what happened.

"But he actually played 246 Premier League games, he scored 28 goals and he assisted 19. But most importantly in this, he got Player of the Season at two different Premier League clubs.

"Manchester City 2008-09, the first Abu Dhabi season, and Aston Villa in 2011-12. And in fairness to him at Aston Villa, he signed in the summer of 2010, Martin O'Neill had just left, Gerard Houllier took over.

"He and Houllier didn't get on, [he was] loaned out to Newcastle so it looked like his career was finished then. But he came back in the summer of 2011, Alex McLeish took over, he was given the number 7 shirt because Ashley Young went to Manchester United.

"And subsequently Stephen Ireland is named Aston Villa Supporters' Player of the Season at the end of that campaign.

"Some of the goals he scored for Manchester City... there's a volley against Liverpool, a chip against Arsenal, there's a brilliant goal at Ewood Park against Blackburn where he basically toys with the England number one goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

"There's a great goal against Hull City where he caresses it into the far corner, he actually has two or three of those type of goals. My point... is that Stephen Ireland was very atypically Irish in his style, he had incredible guile, beautiful technique, and most importantly he had world-class vision.

"In this team I need a bit of flair, I need a bit of guile, and Stephen Ireland is the best central attacking midfielder I can find to suit this team. That's why he's in."

Ger then took exception to the use of Aston Villa Player of the Year as a valid argument.

Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor (right) celebrates scoring the opening goal of the game with Stephen Ireland

"That Aston Villa team he was Player of the Year on was one of the worst Villa teams that there's ever been. 'You can't polish a turd but you can roll it in glitter' is the phrase that springs to mind for that Player of the Year award.

"You're right, he was a very, very talented player, and could have gone on to be one of Ireland's best-ever players in the Premier League, but it was completely unfulfilled.

"Those goals... he's a perfect YouTube player because he has some highlights. But did he define games or seasons? Did he grab games by the scruff of the neck over a long period of time? Did he back up that talent with the type of production you need if you're going to be one of the best Irish players over two and a half decades?

"No! Absolutely not, he did not."

What do you reckon? Let us know in the comments - here is Colm's team in full:

The Best Irish Premier League XI

(Plan B: if it's not working, Staunton and Hoolahan on as substitutes for McAteer and Quinn. A switch to a 5-3-2 formation with Staunton in as a third central defender, Hoolahan joining Keane and Ireland in midfield and Duff moving up top alongside Robbie Keane, with Irwin and Coleman providing the width.)

So, there you have it. The best starting line-up from Ireland in the 28 years of the Premier League. Disagree? Do let us know who you would have in or take out.

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Colm Boohig Eoin Sheahan Ger Gilroy Irish XI Off The Ball Otb Am Premier League Republic Of Ireland Soccer Stephen Ireland