It’s St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) which, of course, is the Irish national day, so on this week’s listening practice report [from 2016] we take a look at some of the best ever Irish football stars. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link above, and you can also read the transcript of the report (below). There are also explanations of key vocabulary (in bold) at the end of the post. You can also practice your listening here with a gap-fill quiz. If you have any suggestions or questions then you can contact us at

Contact Us  Forum Glossary

Embed from Getty Images

Learn English Through Football Language Podcast: Irish Football Stars

Ireland has a long tradition of football – the Irish Football Association was founded in 1880 and its first ever international match was against England in 1882. There are two football federations in Ireland currently – the Irish Football Association, that’s the IFA, and they oversee football in Northern Ireland, while the Football Association of Ireland, the FAI, organises football in the Republic of Ireland. Both teams have played in the World Cup on three occasions. Northern Ireland qualified in 1958, 1982 and 1986, while the Republic played in 1990, 1994 and again in 2002. Now, down through the years there have been many wonderful Irish players such as former Northern Ireland captain Danny Blanchflower, Ireland’s 1990 World Cup central defender Paul McGrath, playmaker Liam Brady and Norman Whiteside who was a young superstar in the 1986 World Cup and so in this week’s practice listening report we have four more footballing greats who played for Irish teams.

George Best

Embed from Getty Images

Belfast-born George Best was a forward with Manchester United and he helped them win the European Cup in 1967 in thrilling style. Best played only 37 times for Northern Ireland and never played at a major championship with his international side but he was still regarded as one of the greatest ever players to have played the game. Indeed, when Best passed away in 2005, Diego Maradona said of the Manchester United winger, ‘He was flamboyant and exciting and able to inspire his team-mates. I actually think we were very similar players – dribblers who were able to create moments of magic’. High praise indeed.

Roy Keane

Embed from Getty Images

The former captain of Manchester United and the Republic of Ireland played 67 times for his country between 1991 and 2005. The midfielder was voted Ireland’s best player at the 1994 World Cup when they reached the second round but he did not play in 2002 after falling out with then manager Mick McCarthy. What a pity, as Keane had been immense in the qualifying rounds and was instrumental in the team getting out of a group that included Portugal and Holland. Tough tackling, brave, intelligent, a fierce will to win and a wide range of passing, whenever Keane played Ireland always had a chance which was testament to how good the player was.

Pat Jennings

Embed from Getty Images

Not many players can play for both Tottenham and Arsenal and still be respected by both sets of fans in North London, yet that is what goalkeeper Pat Jennings managed to do. He played a remarkable 472 times for Spurs and then another 327 times for rivals Arsenal in a 19-year career lasting from 1964 to 1986. He also played 119 times for Northern Ireland including two World Cups: 1982 in Spain and 1986 in Mexico. Undoubtedly, one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

Robbie Keane

Embed from Getty Images

The striker has had a fantastic career and this former Tottenham, Liverpool and Inter Milan player holds the Republic of Ireland’s record for appearances, with 143 and most goals scored (67). Keane played in the 2002 World Cup scoring three times as Ireland reached the second round and will be involved in this summer’s European Championships in France.



Football Language Glossary


  • oversees: Is in charge of (To oversee a team = to manage a team)
  • he was still regarded as: Many thought him to be …
  • flamboyant: Exciting, unpredictable
  • High praise indeed: A phrase that emphasises how good something is
  • falling out with: Arguing with; completely disagreeing with someone over something
  • immense: Really good, awesome
  • was instrumental in: Was important
  • testament: Demonstrated

More Links

Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.

Welcome to the website that helps students interested in football improve their English language skills. Soccer fans can enhance these skills with lots of free language resources: a weekly podcast, football phrases, explanations of football vocabulary, football cliches, worksheets, quizzes and much more at

Google | Facebook | Twitter | Mail | Website

Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

2015-16Episode 51