How many Irish born footballers are playing with continental clubs?

Cillian Sheridan is the most high profile player who has undertaken an adventure

How many Irish born footballers are playing with continental clubs?

Cillian Sheridan with Apoel Nicosia last year (Mike Egerton / EMPICS Sport)

Over the decades, Irish footballers have occasionally made the move to clubs outside the League of Ireland, and English and Scottish football pyramids.

Liam Brady spent the guts of a decade in Italy during the 1980s, Robbie Keane had a brief spell at Inter Milan in 2000, while Tony Cascarino (France), John Aldridge (Spain), Phil Babb (Portugal), Kevin Moran (Spain), Frank Stapleton (Netherlands and Belgium), Steve Finnan (Spain), David Connolly (Netherlands), Ian Harte (Spain) and Liam Lawrence (Greece) have all tasted continental leagues and clubs, although in most cases it was a brief excursion.

Others have come close to making moves. Niall Quinn spoke to Newstalk's Team 33 about how close he came to switching to Sporting Lisbon in the 1990s and Richard Dunne spoke similarly to us about Malaga.

And of others who did feature abroad, ex-Sligo Rovers and Shamrock Rovers striker Padraig Amond also chatted to us about his experience in Portugal with Pacos de Ferreira. Last year, Wigan and Ireland under-21 midfielder Jack Byrne told Off The Ball about the benefits of his loan spell with Dutch side SC Cambuur. 

However, in comparison to other smaller nations around Europe, there isn't a major temptation to move beyond the leagues around Ireland, England or Scotland. It's a trend that former Ireland, Chelsea and West Brom defender Paddy Mulligan hopes to see change as he told Newstalk.com yesterday, especially in a climate where it is becoming harder and harder for Irish players to make it in England.

Currently, the most high profile Irishman with a continental club is Cillian Sheridan, who is scoring regularly for Polish league leaders Jagiellonia Białystok, after spells in Cyprus and Bulgaria. The benefit of playing in Cyprus for example was that he got to play Champions League football - an opportunity that would normally have been denied him had he stayed in England or Scotland.

There are Irish eligible players who were born in continental Europe like Liam Bossin (Anderlecht) and Niklas Baylor (Wolfsburg) who do ply their trade in the countries of their birth and on occasion have been capped for the Boys in Green youth teams.

There is also Kristiansund BK and former Ireland underage goalkeeper Sean McDermott in Norway, who was born to a Norwegian mother and Irish father.

But are there any Irish players born here but who have moved to clubs in continental Europe apart from Sheridan? 

In Inter Milan's academy, you will find a certain Ryan Nolan in the Inter Milan academy setup. The Co Clare native turned 18 in February and joined Inter from his previous Spanish club in 2015. He moved to Spain as a young child.

Caoimhin 'Quivi' Fowler is another name that crops up. Born in Dublin and raised in Australia, he plays for Vitesse Arnhem under-19s in the Netherlands. 

But aside from those examples, it really is few and far between at the moment and certainly with the effects of globalisation in the Premier League, other pathways elsewhere would be worth pursuing for emerging Irish players who intend to leave these shores.