English first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Tipperary junior hurling team in the early 1950s. In 1953 he won a Munster title at this grade before later winning an All-Ireland title following a victory over Warwickshire.
English’s performances at this level brought him to the attention of the senior team. He made his senior debut for Tipp in the 1953-54 National Hurling League and ended that campaign with a winners’ medal following the county’s victory over Kilkenny in the league final. English won a second National League medal in 1955, however, success in the championship was slow in coming. He captured a third league title in 1957. In 1958 Tipperary had bounced back in the championship and English collected his first Munster medal. His team later played Galway in the championship decider. A score line of 4-9 to 2-5 gave Tipp the victory and gave English a first senior All-Ireland title. Tipperary lost their provincial crown the following year, however, English did win a fourth National League medal that year. In 1960 English captured his fifth league medal and his second Munster title following a victory over Cork in one of the toughest games of hurling ever played. In the subsequent All-Ireland final Tipp faced Wexford, thus beginning a great rivalry between the two counties that would last for the entire 1960s. In spite of being the emphatic favourites English ended up on the losing side on that occasion. In 1961 it was National League medal number six and Munster medal number three for English. In the subsequent All-Ireland final Tipp faced Dublin, however, in spite of being red-hot favourites, English’s side were lucky to clinch victory by a single point, thus capturing his second All-Ireland medal.
In 1962 Tipp were still the kingpins of Munster hurling with English capturing a fourth provincial medal. In the subsequent All-Ireland final the second instalment of the Tipperary-Wexford rivalry resulted in a win for Tipp and a third All-Ireland medal for English. Two years later in 1964 Tipperary were once again invincible to all attack. In the National League English claimed his seventh title and in Munster he captured his fifth winners’ medal. In the All-Ireland final Kilkenny were the favourites to retain the title, however, Tipperary completely swept them off the field and won by 14-points. It was English’s fourth All-Ireland medal. 1965 Tipp continued their dominance of the hurling world with English capturing an eighth National League medal. He later added a sixth Munster medal to his collection following an absolute trouncing of Cork in the provincial decider. In the All-Ireland final Wexford were once again waiting for Tipp, however, victory went to English’s side and he captured a fifth All-Ireland winners’ medal. Two years later in 1967 Tipp breezed through the Munster championship with English winning his seventh and final provincial medal. In the All-Ireland final Tipp’s opponents were Kilkenny. The omens were good for Tipp as Kilkenny hadn’t beaten Tipperary in the championship since 1922. On the day, however, Kilkenny were the stronger side and English was denied a sixth All-Ireland title. He retired from inter-county hurling following this defeat.
In retirement from playing English continued his involvement on the inter-county scene as a selector. He was a key member of the backroom team when Tipperary won both Munster and All-Ireland titles in 1971. In the 1980s English served as a selector under Babs Keating. Together with former player Donie Nealon they guided Tipp to three successive Munster titles and an All-Ireland title in 1989.
In 2000 English was chosen, by popular opinion, to partner Mick Roche at midfield on the Tipperary Hurling Team of the Century.