Wayne Sherlock (41), originally from Co Meath, was arrested by officers from the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of a joint investigation in March 2020.
He was detained in Dover after Belgian police discovered ten Vietnamese migrants hiding in the back of a lorry containing tyres.
The smuggling ring was foiled and the migrants never made it to the UK.
Sherlock had previously played Gaelic football in Meath and later travelled to the United States where he worked and played with a Chicago-based club.
He was today sentenced to four years imprisonment at Maidstone Crown Court after pleading guilty to conspiring to facilitate illegal immigration.
The presiding judge said that Sherlock played "a very significant role" in an international conspiracy to traffic people into the UK.
Prosecutors described him as one of the "organisational hubs" in the plot but added that he was "not at the very top".
Evidence was also given in mitigation that there were others above Sherlock in various other countries.
Although originally from Meath he had been living in in the Eythorne area of Kent at the time of the offending.
The accused also ran a business, Shamrock Distribution, which was based in Dover, also in Kent.
Sherlock was a director and listed as a transport manager but accounts show that the company was dissolved in June of last year.
Speaking after the sentencing hearing today NCA Belfast branch commander David Cunningham said: “Tackling organised immigration crime is a priority for the NCA. People smugglers put lives at risk in pursuit of profit, and we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and dismantle the criminal networks involved in this exploitative crime.”
Four other men arrested as part of the investigation are awaiting trial in April 2023. The defendants have addresses in Scotland, Lancashire, and Crossmaglen in Co Armagh.
During the sentencing hearing judge Robert Lazarus told the Sherlock that those who were trafficked were vulnerable and often hurt by the journey to the UK. There was however no suggestion that the 10 migrants found in the truck were harmed.
"But once inside the UK, such individuals become invisible having no legitimate papers and are often trafficked into drugs, prostitution and forced labour.
"It is a dreadful crime that causes harm in so many ways," he added, according to Kent Online.
Wayne Sherlock has been in custody since his arrest over two years ago.
Most prisoners serving a fixed sentenced are released on licence halfway through their jail term, meaning he could be released immediately.