March 17th usually means one thing whether you are Irish or not, St Patrick’s Day, the one day of the year where it is okay to drink Guinness none stop and dress up in colours green white and gold no matter where you are from in the world. A Universal celebration of all things Irish.
This year may be slightly different as no pub in the country is open, so instead of celebrating with your friends in the local to the chords of music and melody from the likes of Boyzone and B*Witched, we instead come up with an all-time eleven of Nottingham Forest, Notts County and Mansfield Town players that have either represented the green of Eire and Northern Ireland or have been born in the famous Emerald Republic.
Goalkeeper: Roy Carroll (Notts County)
Not a lot of people know about Roy’s long connection to Nottingham, an uncle in Bestwood who he used to visit from growing up in Fermanagh, used to take him to Notts County games as a child when he flew over to England to see him. After playing for the likes of Wigan Athletic, Manchester United and Olympiacos amongst others, when the opportunity came up to play for Notts he jumped at the chance to return to a city he already knew. A terrific goalkeeper who made 77 appearances for the Magpies late in his career, the Northern Irishman also had 45 International caps.
Right Back: Gary Fleming (Nottingham Forest & Notts County)
The Derry born defender played for Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest as a youngster after signing from Limavady United before joining Manchester City in 1989. Fleming never really settled at Maine Road, and ended up returning to Nottingham for a short spell at Notts County on loan before a move to Barnsley ended up with him staying at Oakwell for seven years making well over 200 league appearances for the club. Since retiring, Fleming operated as physio for Nottingham Forest and now has his own practice in Lady Bay as well as in Harrogate.
Centre Back: Brian Kilcline (Notts County & Mansfield Town)
Nottingham born but of Irish descent, Killer was a frequenter of the Catholic Christ the King School in Arnold as a child and joined Notts County straight from that school, playing 158 times in the league for the Magpies. A move to Coventry City saw him famously lift the FA Cup in 1987 before spells at Oldham, Newcastle and Swindon. Kilcline also made 50 appearances for Mansfield between 1995-97 and was known for his aggressive no-nonsense defending and eccentric ways which included his noticeable long ginger hair and beard.
Centre Back: John Thompson (Nottingham Forest, Notts County & Mansfield Town)
The only player in our team to play for all three of the counties professional clubs, John Thompson played over 100 times for Nottingham Forest before a spell at Oldham lead to him joining Notts County initially on loan, where he was part of their 2009/10 League Two Championship winning season, joining Mansfield a year later where he played just fifteen times. Also representing Republic of Ireland on one occasion during his career, Thompson now works as a fitness instructor based in Woodborough.
Left Back: Nigel Worthington (Notts County)
The Ballymena born defender played for Notts County in the early eighties, marauding down the left flank on 67 occasions in the league before joining Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United where he had successful spells which included winning the League Cup in 1991. With 66 caps for Northern Ireland, Worthington captained and managed his country and is also the cousin of Leicester City Manager Brendan Rogers.
Right Midfield: Martin O’Neill (Nottingham Forest & Notts County)
A European Champion with Nottingham Forest, O’Neill played 64 times for Northern Ireland and managed the Republic for five years between 2013-2018 and also played for Notts County late in his playing career, making 64 appearances whilst at Meadow Lane under Jimmy Sirrel. With over 300 games in red and white under Brian Clough, the Kilrea born midfielder is an all-time Forest great and would later manage the club in 2019 having previously managed the likes of Leicester City and of course Celtic, where he would win three league titles.
Centre Midfield: Roy Keane (Nottingham Forest)
Arguably the biggest name on this list and one of the best footballers ever to come out of the country of Ireland. Famously joined Nottingham Forest as a boy from Cobh Ramblers for just £47,000 and was thrown in by Manager Brian Clough as an eighteen year-old for a professional debut at champions Liverpool. Three years later he would leave for Manchester United for a then British record fee. The rest of Keane’s career was fantastic trophy-winning history. These days his outspoken views can be enjoyed on Sky Sports.
Centre Midfield: Don O’Riordan (Notts County & Mansfield Town)
A Notts County favourite and a cultured player that had a repertoire to his game that included being able to ‘play’ and ‘mix it’ with the best of them. Remembered perhaps most famously for a superb goal in the FA Cup Quarter Final at Tottenham Hotspur, Dublin born O’Riordan played for the Magpies 109 times and even had a short loan spell at Mansfield Town but admitted he was ‘never the same player’ after an injury suffered when Notts were beaten by Manchester United on the opening day of the 1991/92 season at Old Trafford after gaining promotion to the top flight. An injury which Neil Warnock famously stated ‘cost Notts’ their status in Division One that year.
Left Midfield: Andy Reid (Nottingham Forest)
A true Forest great and a player that in two spells for the club played nearly 300 games, often scoring screamers with a wand of a left foot and assisting his way into fans favourite territory. The Dubliner joined Forest as a boy from Cherry Orchard, a team that has seen a number of its graduates go on to play for Ireland in time, Reid one of those, making 29 full appearances for the boys in green. Still at the club, Reid now manages the Academy and when he’s not playing or managing football, can often be seen singing and playing guitars in the cities Irish bars, oh how this day of March 17 was made for him.
Centre Forward: Tommy Gaynor (Nottingham Forest)
The Limerick born forward was a League of Ireland journeyman before joining Doncaster Rovers in 1986 where he was snapped up by Brian Clough who took a punt on the player, who would eventually twice win the League Cup with the Reds. After 57 league apps and ten goals he would move to Millwall and back to Ireland where he would continue his journey playing for some of the most famous teams in the country. A cult hero in red, Gaynor has incredibly not been back to Nottingham since leaving the city in 1992.
Centre Forward: David McGoldrick (Notts County & Nottingham Forest)
Currently playing in the Premier League with Sheffield United, McGoldrick, Wollaton born and schooled, has played 14 times for the Republic of Ireland scoring one goal. After starting his career at Notts County he was snapped up by Southampton and returned to his roots at Forest where he would play 64 times before moving to Ipswich. Actually adopted at birth, McGoldrick discovered he could play for Ireland in 2014 after discovering his biological grandfather was born in Ireland, a fitting way to end our team, for so many that have family and distant relations from across the Irish sea.
Don’t agree with us? With so many great players it was hard to fit everyone in? The current crop of Stephen McLaughlin, Harry Charsley, Michael Doyle, Damien McCrory, Cyrus Christie also worth a mention and the legendary likes of Steve Finnan, Simon Cox, Kingsley Black, Alan Judge, Miah Dennehy, David Kelly, Liam Lawrence, Kris Commons, and more, all within our thoughts…. All wished a happy St Patrick’s Day from all at Nottingham Sport indeed.
Want to have your say? You can enter below any other top Irish players from North or South of the border we’ve missed and let us know your team of XI as well as any stories you have of top Irish footballers that have played their football in Nottinghamshire. Whilst we could only name eleven, there’s plenty more that we have fond memories of and they’ll be plenty more to come that we’ll no doubt discuss whilst drinking a pint of the black stuff in years ahead. But for now here’s to those who have made us happy by doing what they do best in the colours of our counties teams. This is your day, enjoy!
*Main image @buzzdotie Martin O’Neill a man that has played for Northern Ireland and Managed the Republic.