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      St Patrick’s Day: Palace’s Irish Eagles & heroes


      Crystal Palace have been privileged to witness some fine Irish players grace the Selhurst Park pitch over the years – celebrate St Patrick’s Day by looking back on just a handful of the best, below.

      Early days

      Right-back Robert McCracken was signed from Belfast Distillery in the summer before Palace won their first championship in 1920/21, and was first choice until suffering a broken leg that December. However, he returned for the start of Palace's first Second Division campaign and went on to play more games for the club in that tier than anyone else, until their demotion in 1925.

      He won four international caps for Northern Ireland, the first of which came against England at Roker Park a few months after joining the Glaziers, becoming the first player from England's third tier to play for the the province.

      Harking from Limerick, Johnny Gavin began his footballing career in the aftermath of the Second World War, playing for his local club and working as a painter on the railways before attracting the attention of Norwich City.

      Barring a brief interlude playing for Tottenham Hotspur, he spent nine years at Carrow Road scoring 132 goals – remaining the club’s record scorer to this day.

      After a spell at Watford he moved to south London to play for Palace, appearing 66 times in the league and scoring 15 goals. He retired in the late 1960s with seven international caps for the Republic of Ireland to his name.

      The next great Irish hero would go down in Palace folklore, as Paddy Mulligan signed from Chelsea in 1972. He wrote his name in the record books by scoring twice in the famous 5-0 victory over Manchester United, and stayed for three years before leaving for West Bromwich Albion – playing 50 times for his country in the meantime.

      As Mulligan left, Jerry Murphy joined. Or rather, he graduated. Coming through the club’s youth system, Murphy won back-to-back FA Youth Cups with the club in 1977 and 1978, before making his debut under Terry Venables and becoming part of the ‘Team of the Eighties’. He won Player of the Year in 1982/83.


      After coming through at non-league level, Eddie McGoldrick joined Palace from Northampton Town in 1988, helping the club earn promotion to the first division with an assist for Ian Wright in the 1988/89 play-off final and winning the Zenith Data Systems Cup two years later. He earned 15 caps for the Republic of Ireland, leaving south London to join Arsenal in 1993.

      Ray Houghton’s legendary status was already assured by the time he joined Palace, making 73 appearances for his country and scoring two strikes that would live long in the memory: the winner against England in the 1988 European Championships and against Italy in the 1994 World Cup.

      Having won two league titles and two FA Cups for Liverpool in the late 1980s, he signed for Palace and played 87 times for the club, scoring eight goals.

      While Houghton was coming to the end of his career at the club, Rob Quinn was only just beginning. A successful youth team captain, he was promoted to the senior side and started the 1997 play-off final at Wembley. After a distinguished career in the football league, he has returned to south London to manage the club’s exciting Under-18s side.

      At the start of 1995, Iain Dowie was enjoying a purple patch in front of goal. Snapped up by Alan Smith from Southampton for £400,000 in January to help keep Palace – who had only scored 17 league goals before his arrival – stay in the Premier League, the forward began imposing himself on opposition defences and netted five times in his first two months in red and blue.

      The Northern Ireland international would eventually leave Palace the following September for West Ham United, with a record of 10 goals in 25 appearances - but he would return to Palace in 2003/04 to spectacular effect as a promotion-winning manager.

      New Millennium

      If you attended Selhurst Park in the early 2000s, you could bank on one thing: a Clinton Morrison goal. The centre-forward scored 113 times for the club in two separate spells, one of only eight men to hit triple figures.

      Northern Ireland international Michael Hughes – who appeared over 70 times for his country – also experienced great success in red and blue. His time at Selhurst Park, which began in 2003, concluded after four seasons as a die-hard fan favourite, captaining the Eagles in the top-flight and amassing almost 150 appearances for the south Londoners.

      As Morrison prepared to leave in 2008, a new Irish youngster was emerging into the senior side: Sean Scannell. He made his debut at just 17-years-old after graduating from the Academy, and played 141 times before departing for Huddersfield Town in 2012.

      As the Eagles’ financial woes increased off the pitch, they sought reinforcements and in stepped Republic of Ireland international Paul McShane.

      Despite spending just a six-month loan spell in south London, McShane made an impression on the Palace faithful with his desire and commitment.

      Promotion to Premier League

      If there is one thing you need for a gutsy promotion push to succeed, it’s players with the grit and determination to keep fighting week after week. Paddy McCarthy has that in spades, and regularly proved it as a fan-favourite at Crystal Palace.

      After a spell guiding the next wave of young talents as manager of the Under-21s, he is now a trusted assistant coach to Oliver Glasner.

      Alongside the Dubliner was the man from Cork: Damien Delaney. Signing from Ipswich Town in 2012, Delaney spent six years at the club from the Championship to the Premier League; his tears on the Wembley steps after Palace’s promotion will live long in the memory.

      Midfielder Owen Garvan was also a key figure in the promotion season, playing 27 times in the Championship as Ian Holloway’s men did the unthinkable.

      Since Palace’s promotion, there is another midfield maestro that stands out. James McCarthy proved a formidable midfield unit after his move from Everton, and made 52 appearances for the club – and 43 for the national team.

      International talents

      Three highly-rated Republic of Ireland internationals have joined Crystal Palace Women's ranks this season - and all three have already impressed.

      Centre-back Hayley Nolan was voted cinch Player of the Month for January after scoring two important goals in consecutive games, continuing to catch the eye with her all-action displays.

      And in February, Izzy Atkinson also won that award, having enjoyed a fine start to her Crystal Palace career after signing from West Ham United.

      The exciting winger won both cinch Player of the Month - and the Barclays Women's Championship Player of the Month - awards for her exploits in her first full month in red and blue.

      And to complete the trio, Abbie Larkin – who last summer became the youngest-ever player, male or female, to represent the Republic of Ireland at a FIFA World Cup finals tournament – joined the club on a permanent transfer from Glasgow City for an undisclosed fee, signing until 2026.

      New generation

      As Palace look towards the Academy for the next great generation of Eagles, the Irish influence is clear.

      Tayo Adaramola and Killian Phillips have already made their first-team debuts for the club, while Sean Grehan recently penned a new contract with the club, and winger Franco Umeh made his maiden, non-competitive first-team appearance in the recent mid-season friendly against Bodø/Glimt.

      Centre-back Craig Farquhar, meanwhile, recently signed from NIFL Premiership side Larne FC, whilst Justin Devenny – a Northern Ireland youth international who also signed for Palace earlier this season, and who also played against Bodø/Glimt – has made 23 appearances for the U21s this season, notching three goals and three assists so far.

      Kofi Balmer has made a flying start to his loan spell at AFC Wimbledon this season.

      In the Under-18s, meanwhile, centre-back Jake Grante continues to receive international recognition, whilst the likes of Luke Browne, Joseph Gibbard and Cormac Austin have also impressed this season.

      Who will be the next great Irish hero at Selhurst Park?