Top 10 Football Clubs In Ireland

Shamrock Rovers top football clubs in Ireland
(Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Football is the most popular sport in Ireland, and the country is home to some of the best football clubs in the world. Although they have their Gaelic football, football or soccer is also loved in the country.

From the passionate fans to the fierce competition, Irish football is known for its unique atmosphere and high level of play.

The League of Ireland Premier Division was reformed in 1985, and several clubs have been a part of the league’s topflight.

Like the story is almost everywhere, some clubs have ruled and gone extinct; some are sleeping giants, while a couple of others have tried to maintain their status as professional clubs.

Drumcondra is one of the most successful clubs in Northern Ireland after winning 5 leagues of Ireland titles and 5 cups, as well as four shields during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and a big rivalry with Shamrock Rovers. 

Unfortunately, the team now plays in the Leinster Senior League Senior Division 1A after falling into obscurity around the late 1960s.

Another club that has recently fallen into the same fate is Limerick which went into extinction in 2019 before taking another name, Treaty United and re-entering the league in 2021.

St Patrick’s Athletic and Bohemians are the only current League of Ireland clubs never to have been relegated from the Premier Division and remain a part till today.

However, Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk rank as the two most successful club sides in Ireland, even though none have been able to replicate a title-winning effort in European competitions.

Nonetheless, where do these two rank in the list of Ireland’s top ten football clubs? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the top 10 football clubs in Ireland.

1. Shamrock Rovers

Shamrock Rovers top football clubs in Ireland
(Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
  • Nickname(s): Hoops, Rovers
  • Founded: 1899, 124 years ago
  • Ground: Tallaght Stadium
  • Capacity: 8,000.

There isn’t a better place to start than from one of the oldest clubs in the land, the most successful club, and the current Champions of the League of Ireland.

Shamrock has won 20 titles in total, which stands as a record and also have 25 FAI Cup titles which is also a record.

The club has a rich history and equally rich cabinets that flows with other competitions that, include the LFA President Cup, and League of Ireland shield, among others.

With 64 players supplied to the Republic of Ireland national football team, Shamrock Rovers stands as the club with the highest number of players contributed.

In fact, most the best Irish soccer players of all time, played for Shamrock Rovers.

Moreover, in All-Ireland competitions like the Intercity Cup, they hold the record for the most victories, having won a total of seven cups.

Surprisingly, they have been relegated before and even won the second-division title once in 2006.

They also share a huge rivalry with Bohemians F.C.; we will get to them shortly; let’s move on.

2. Dundalk

Dundalk top football clubs in Ireland
(Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
  • Nickname: The Lilywhites, The Railwaymen 
  • Founded: September 1903, 119 years ago
  • Ground: Oriel Park
  • Capacity: 4,500 (3,100 seated).

There is something special about Dundalk; they are the first club outside Dublin to win the title, and they are the second most successful team in the league, but they have one thing above Shamrock Rovers, and that’s participation in European competitions.

Dundalk is the highest-ranked Irish team in Europe based on the UEFA Club coefficient.

Beyond the coefficient, they are also the only Irish team that has managed to play in the group stage of the UEFA Club competition (Europa League) twice.

Shelburne(2004), Derry City (2006), Drogheda (2008), and Shamrock Rovers (2011) are the other teams who have made a group-stage effort in the Europa League, while Dundalk themselves did in 2016 and 2020.

Their trophy cabinet Is the second most decorated in Ireland, and they have 38 trophies in total compared to Shamrock Rovers’Rovers’ 68 trophies.

Fourteen league titles and twelve FAI Cups are some of their biggest wins.

3. Shelbourne F.C.

Shelbourne F.C. best football clubs in Ireland
(Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
  • Nickname: Shels, The Reds, The Real Reds, The Auld Reds
  • Founded: 1895
  • Ground: Tolka Park
  • Capacity: 4,400.

Shelbourne F.C. is one of the big soccer teams in Ireland that have experienced some highs and lows recently.

They currently are a mid-table team in the Premier division after finishing fourth last season.

They have won the Premier division 13 times in their history and two-second division titles in 2019 and 2021.

Seven challenge cups and eight shields are also part of the accumulated 29 titles that they have won in total, which makes them the third most successful team in Ireland.

They also have a milestone in European football as they were the first team from the country to reach the third round of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.

Furthermore, they managed to play in the days that the competition was known as the European cup.

However, success in the competition has been limited to 20 UEFA Champions League/European cup games, with barely four wins. They are currently unranked in the UEFA Club Coefficient.

Their rivalry starts with Bohemians, although their clashes with Shamrock and St Patrick’s Athletic, but first, let’slet’s profile Bohemians.

4. Bohemian

  • Nickname: The Bohs, The Gypsies, Dublin’s Originals
  • Founded: 6 September 1890, 132 years ago
  • Ground: Dalymount Park
  • Capacity: 4227.

Perhaps if Bohemians F.C. had started as a professional football club like every other club, they could be regarded as Ireland’s most successful Club side by now.

However, for the first few decades of their existence up until the 1930s, Bohemians ran strictly as an amateur Club.

Irrespective, they have won the league of Ireland 11 times, although the last one came in 2009. They have also won the discontinued President cup 13 times.

In European football, Bohemians are no different from their fellow Irish sides club sides as they have no European pedigree, nor do they play in the UEFA Champions League qualification stages, featured in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers as well as the UEFA Europa Conference league.

5. St Patrick’s Athletic 

Nickname: Saints, Supersaints, The Athletic, Red Army, Pat’s, St Pat’s.

Founded: 1929

Ground: Richmond Park

Capacity: 5,346 (2,800 seated)

St Pat is Ireland’sIreland’s fifth most decorated football club, and they have been champions of the League of Ireland eight times, four FAI cups, and four league cups.

They won the league on their first attempt in 1951, and their most recent came in 2013.

In total, they have 18 major trophies, and their last trophy was in 2021 in the FAI cup.

Their European recording is the one to be envied, with eight UEFA Champions League qualification matches without a win. In 60 matches across all European competitions, St Pat has only won 13 times.

6. Derry City

  • Nickname: Red and White Army, The Candystripes
  • Founded: 1928
  • Ground: Brandywell Stadium, Derry, Northern Ireland
  • Capacity: 7,700

Derry City is the only club from outside Ireland playing in the League of Ireland. The club is based in Northern Ireland.

They hold the record for the most League Cup titles, and that’s not the only enviable record they have as they won the treble in 1988/1989, and they are the only League of Ireland clubs to have done so. 

They didn’tdidn’t start in the League of Ireland as they played in the Northern Ireland first division until 1971 due to security concerns, political unrest, and social troubles.

7. Waterford

  • Nickname: The Blues or The Big Team
  • Founded: 1930; 93 years ago
  • Ground: Waterford Regional Sports Centre, Waterford, Ireland
  • Capacity: 5,154 (3,035 seats).

Waterford is one of the many sleeping giants in the League of Ireland football; the club dominated the topflight within the 1960s and early 1970s, winning all six titles.

Their last major title was the second division (aka League of Ireland’s first division) in 2017. In total, they have won fifteen titles.

8. Cork City

  • Nickname: Rebel Army, City
  • Founded: 1984; 39 years ago
  • Ground: Turners Cross
  • Capacity: 7,485.

Cork City is one of the “youngest clubs” playing in the League of Ireland; having been established in 1985, they have managed to build a good reputation winning nine trophies.

They recently got promoted back into the top flight after spending two seasons in the first division.

They have three League of Ireland titles, the last coming in 2017.

9. Sligo Rovers

  • Nickname: The Bit O’Red, Rovers
  • Founded: 1928
  • Ground: The Showgrounds
  • Capacity: 5,500 (4,000 seated).

Sligo Rovers is one of the many “ supporters owned” clubs in Ireland, and they have won three League of Ireland titles and five FAI cups.

They have never won or scored in a UEFA Champions League qualification game and only have seven wins in 32 European competition matches.

10. Drogheda

  • Nickname: The Drogs, Claret and Blue Army, Super Drogs, United, DUFC
  • Founded: 1919, 104 years ago (as Drogheda United)
  • Ground: Weavers Park, Drogheda, County Louth
  • Capacity: 3,500.

Last but not least on the list is one-time League of Ireland winner Drogheda United.

They have been the near men of the league, coming second twice, and the yo-yo team often switching between the top flight and second division.

They have been luckier in the second division five times and are one-time FAI and two-time League of Ireland cup winners.

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