Ten sets of brothers who have played for Northern Ireland – BBC News

Northern Ireland international brothers

Perhaps surprisingly, there have been 22 sets of brothers who have played international football for Ireland/Northern Ireland over the past 138 years.

Here, Northern Ireland’s ‘stat king’ Marshall Gillespie takes a look at 10 of the most notable ones.

Jonny Evans 84 caps; 4 goals (2006-present)

Corry Evans 59 caps; 2 goals (2009-present)

No brothers have made more appearances for Northern Ireland than Jonny and Corry Evans

With 143 caps between them, no two brothers have made more appearances for Northern Ireland than current squad members Jonny and Corry Evans.

Jonny had yet to make a first-team appearance with Manchester United when Lawrie Sanchez handed the teenager his first cap at left-back against a hugely talented Spanish outfit in September 2006.

After gaining experience during loan spells with Royal Antwerp and Sunderland he eventually did make the breakthrough at Old Trafford making close on 200 appearances and winning three Premier League titles before being sold to West Brom for £6 million in 2015.

The cultured central defender, who seems to get better with age, then moved to Leicester City in 2018 and even at 32 he is still considered one of the top defenders in the Premier League.

Like Jonny, Corry, who also started his club career at United, had not yet sampled first-team football at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ when Nigel Worthington gave him his senior bow in a friendly against Italy in June 2019.

When, in October 2018, he reached a half century of caps for Northern Ireland against Bosnia, it meant the Evans’ became only the second set of brothers after England’s Gary and Phil Neville, to make 50 or more international appearances for any of the Home Nations.

Danny Blanchflower 56 apps; 2 goals (1949-1962)

Jackie Blanchflower 12 apps; 1 goal (1954-1958)

Jackie Blanchflower and brother Danny accumulated 68 caps between them

Next to the Evans’, Northern Ireland’s most capped brothers are Danny and Jackie Blanchflower. The elder of the pair, Danny, had a glittering career in England after leaving Glentoran in April 1949 for Barnsley where he won his first four caps for his country.

It was with Spurs though that he really excelled, skippering them to a unique League and Cup double in 1961 and to European Cup Winners’ Cup success in 1963.

Acknowledged as one of the greatest players of his generation, Danny was also voted the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year on two occasions (1958 and 1961) as well as captaining his country no fewer than 45 times.

He managed Northern Ireland for three years in the late 70’s and following his retirement from the game had a successful career as a columnist with the Daily Express.

Jackie, who also started out with the Glens, made only a dozen international appearances for Northern Ireland, all of them alongside his brother, before tragedy struck and his career was ended aged just 24 following injuries sustained in the Munich air disaster in 1958.

During his all too brief career, the talented inside-right made 117 appearances for Manchester United’s Busby Babes in the 50’s and after his retirement he became an accountant and a renowned after dinner speaker.

Billy Scott 25 caps; 0 goals (1903-1913)

Elisha Scott 31 caps; 0 goals (1920-1936)

Billy was the elder of the Scott boys and, like Elisha, was one of the outstanding goalkeepers of his era winning a total of 25 full Ireland caps during a ten year period.

He began his career in the Irish League with Linfield where he won numerous honours that included two League and Cup doubles and three City Cups before being transferred to Everton in the close season of 1904.

Billy went on to play 289 times for the Toffee’s in eight seasons winning the FA Cup with them in 1906. One of his biggest contributions during his time at Goodison Park was to recommend younger brother Elisha, then a budding keeper at Broadway United, to both his own club Everton and fierce rivals Liverpool.

After a trial at Everton Elisha was rejected by the club on the grounds that he was too small and instead signed for the Anfield outfit in 1912.

During his 22 year association with the club he became a legend at Liverpool playing a staggering 468 games and helping them to two League titles before departing the club in 1934 to become player/manager at Belfast Celtic.

In his 15 years in the managerial hot-seat at Celtic Park he won an incredible 33 trophies making him one of the most successful ever manager’s in the local game.

He made the last of his 31 international appearances in March 1936 aged 42 years and 200 days to make him the oldest ever player to play for Ireland/Northern Ireland.

Victor Hunter 2 caps; 0 goals (1961-1963)

Allan Hunter 53 caps; 1 goal (1969-1979)

Victor Hunter and younger brother Allan both represented N Ireland

Victor and younger brother Allan Hunter both played in the same Coleraine team that won the Irish Cup in 1965 following a 2-1victory over Glenavon at Windsor Park.

Apart from a brief spell at Derry City, goalkeeper Victor spent his entire career at the Showgrounds playing a total of 472 games for the club, putting him sixth in the Bannsiders’ all-time appearance list.

His only two caps for Northern Ireland came against England at Wembley in 1961 and two years later, versus Spain in a European Championship tie at Windsor Park. He also won caps at ‘B’, Amateur and youth level as well as making three appearances for the Irish League representative team.

Allan, nine years his brother’s junior, made just shy of 100 appearances for Coleraine before embarking on a professional career with Oldham Athletic in 1967. He left Boundary Park for Blackburn Rovers two-and-a-half years later and was subsequently signed by Ipswich Town boss Bobby Robson in 1971.

However, it was at Portman Road that the rugged centre-half really established himself and he went on to win the FA Cup with the Tractor Boys in 1978 when they beat Arsenal 1-0 at Wembley.

Allan won 53 caps during his ten-year international career with Northern Ireland, his final outing coming in a 1-0 European Championship victory over the Republic of Ireland in Belfast in 1979.

Conor McLaughlin 38 caps; 1 goal (2011-present)

Ryan McLaughlin 5 caps; 0 goals (2014-present)

Conor and Ryan McLaughlin have been part of Michael O’Neill’s NI squad in recent years

It’s a well-worn statistic now, but when Ryan made his international bow against Uruguay in 2014 he became the first Liverpool player since the great Elisha Scott to play for Ireland/Northern Ireland in 80 years.

He was highly rated at Anfield, but a succession of injuries meant the gifted right-back left the Reds in 2016 without making a first-team appearance for the club he had been with since the age of 16.

Ryan has since turned out for Oldham Athletic, Blackpool and Rochdale but injuries have hampered his career and he is currently on the look-out for a new club after being released by Dale earlier this month.

Older sibling Conor, who has played on three occasions alongside Ryan for Northern Ireland, made his international bow way back in 2011 under Nigel Worthington, but had to wait another three before gaining further recognition under Michael O’Neill.

He started out at Preston North End before moving to Fleetwood Town in 2012 where he made exactly 200 appearances for the Fishermen.

Currently at Sunderland, via a couple of disappointing seasons at Millwall, Conor was an integral part of Michael O’Neill’s squad that qualified for EURO 2016, though at the Finals themselves he only played in the opening group game against Poland.

Bobby Irvine 8 apps; 0 goals (1962-1965)

Willie Irvine 23 apps; 8 goals (1963-1972)

By the time he was 21 Bobby Irvine had already played nearly 250 games for Linfield, won every honour the local game had to offer and had seven full international caps to his name!

He was transferred to Stoke City for a fee of £6,000 in June 1963, but in three years at the Victoria Ground he managed to play just 36 games before being released and joining non-league Altrincham.

Bobby, who also made one appearance at under-23 level for Northern Ireland, next played for Telford United whom he won an FA Trophy medal with in 1971.

Of the two, Willie had arguably the more noteworthy international career scoring eight goals in his 23 outings for his country, though, like his brother he played at under-23 level before winning his first senior cap against Wales in Belfast in April 1963.

He was a prolific striker during his five seasons at Burnley scoring 97 goals in just 151 games for the Clarets and he was also regularly on the scoresheet during his spells at both Preston North End and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Willie, who appeared in three full internationals with his brother, had the rare distinction of scoring in four consecutive Northern Ireland matches in the sixties, including a goal against England in a 2-1 defeat in a European Championship contest at Wembley.

Eddie Crossan 3 apps; 1 goal (1949-1955)

Johnny Crossan 24 apps; 10 goals (1959-1967)

Eddie Crossan manged to win just three caps for Northern Ireland but he was reputedly the more skilful player than his younger sibling who managed to clock up 24 appearances for his country.

Blackburn Rovers secured Eddie’s signature form his hometown club Derry City for a paltry £3,000 in November 1947 but despite the winger managing 74 goals in 302 games at Ewood Park, it was felt that he never quite reached his full potential.

The first of his three caps came in 1949 v Scotland and his last some six years later when he scored in a 3-2 home defeat to Wales at Windsor Park.

If Johnny was not as skilful as his mercurial bother then he was definitely more controversial after he was served a ‘life’ suspension by the Football League over financial irregularities in 1959.

Due to the ban he moved abroad and spent three years playing for Sparta Rotterdam and Standard Liege before returning to the England and signing for Sunderland following the lifting of his ban in 1962.

He scored 10 goals during his eight year international career and is one of only 10 players ever to score an international hat-trick for Northern Ireland when he hit a treble against Albania at Windsor Park in May 1965.

Sam Torrans 26 caps; 1 goal (1889-1901)

Rab Torrans 1 cap; 0 goals (1893)

There was a quintet of Torrans brothers that all played for Linfield in the late nineteenth century, but only two, Sam and Rab, were recognised at full international level by Ireland.

Although Rab won three League and Cup doubles with the Blues in the 1890’s he only managed to play once for Ireland in March 1893 when they were soundly beaten 6-1 by Scotland at Parkhead.

In contrast Sam, three years his younger, had a fairly illustrious international career becoming a mainstay of the team for exactly twelve years and winning a grand total of 26 caps and scoring one goal.

Born in Belfast, Sam, who could play in a multitude of positions including left-half and left-back, won a staggering six Irish League Championships and seven Irish Cups during his 16 years with Linfield.

In March 1892 when Ireland played England at Solitude the home side were awarded the first ever penalty given in an international only for Sam to see his spot-kick saved by the English goalkeeper that day William Rowley.

He also holds the record for having scored more own goals for Ireland/Northern Ireland than any other player, three in total, two of them against Scotland and one against England.

Jeff Whitley 20 caps; 2 goals (1997-2005)

Jim Whitley 3 caps; 0 goals (1998-99)

Brothers Jeff and Jim Whitley won 23 NI caps between them

The Whitley brothers were both born in Zambia but qualified to play for Northern Ireland through their father who hailed from Belfast.

The youngest, Jeff, was the first to win full international honours with his adopted country when manager Bryan Hamilton handed him his debut in a 3-0 friendly win over Belgium at Windsor Park in February 1997.

The midfielder won 20 caps under four different international managers with his last appearance being a 1-1 draw in Malta in August 2005 before falling out of favour with boss Lawrie Sanchez.

Jeff’s club career began with Manchester City but he was released in 2003 by Kevin Keegan and went on to play for Sunderland, Cardiff City, Stoke City and Wrexham before drifting into non-league football.

Jim was also at Manchester City as a youth and played 46 games for the club before leaving for Wrexham in 2001 where he remained for five years ahead of having to quit the game because of a persistent knee injury.

Upon his retirement the former midfielder became a singer in a tribute act and also a successful artist, ironically exhibiting his work at Maine Road, Manchester City’s former home.

Joe Burnison 2 apps; 0 goals (1901)

Sam Burnison 8 apps; 0 goals (1908-1913)

There were actually four Burnison brothers, Joe Sam, Harold and Jonny, who all played Irish League football, however it was only the two eldest, Joe and Sam, who eventually went on to gain full international honours.

Lurgan-born Joe started out with his local club Glenavon before signing for Distillery in 1898 and then moving into English football with First Division Bolton Wanderers three years later.

He spent just over fourteen months and made only 18 appearances for Wanderers’ before returning to Distillery and winning three League titles and an Irish Cup with the Whites.

Joe only managed two caps for his country, against England and Wales in 1901, though he did also play on three occasions for the Irish League representative side.

When Sam Burnison made his debut against England in February 1908 he was still only 17 years and 77 days old making him the third youngest player ever to appear in a full international for Ireland/Northern Ireland.

In total he was capped eight times in five years, his final appearance coming in January 1913 against Wales while still aged only 22.

Sam had two spells at Distillery, in between a brief sojourn with Bradford Park Avenue, clocking up 343 games in 13 seasons with the Whites before ending his career with Glenavon.

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