And so the curtain comes down on another League of Ireland season.
While the supporters of some clubs are giving a standing ovation and already looking forward to the next performance, fans of some teams are wondering whether their stars will be treading the boards at all next term.
In my final blog of the season I like to give out my annual awards for achievements over the course of the last 36 weeks.
I can’t think of a name for the award, so I think I’m going to settle on ‘Roddy’ - so to the Roddy’s of 2010:
Best Goal of the Season:
Anto Flood’s wonder strike for Galway against Drogheda United was the choice of the MNS panel and it’s hard to argue with that one. It was an absolute cracker, but I think Ronan Finn’s goal for Sporting away to Dundalk would also be a very deserving winner. Great teamwork, passing, movement, and a killer finish as well. However, Anto Flood it is who collects the Roddy.
Most Talked About Mascot of the Year:
I suppose it has to be Hooperman. Love him or hate him, he’s the most photographed and filmed club mascot ever in Irish soccer. His interaction with fans young and old at Tallaght and beyond is something that all clubs should be looking to emulate.
I know Bohemians fans claim he taunted them one day at Tallaght. That’s not to be condoned, but getting hot under the collar over the actions of a super-hero does seem a bit silly in the cold light of day.
Best Line in a Match Report by One of the MNS Reporters:
Step forward Mr Eamonn Donohoe with this one, after an extremely dubious last-ditch tackle by Bray's Nicky Byrne, Eamonn commented: ‘Not quite flying without wings, more flying by the seat of your pants.’
We’re Turkeys, Let’s Vote for Christmas Award:
There was only one contender for this, and it goes to the clubs who recently voted for a return to winter football. I still can’t fathom what possessed them.
Anyone who froze their assets off at the Aviva Stadium for the Cup final will know that sitting in Arctic conditions watching football is not a pleasant experience. Give me the nice warm summer evenings, a cool drink, and a slice of Pizza or a burger. That’s how it should be and hopefully will remain.
The Honey I’ve Shrunk the Squad Award:
There were a few contenders for this one, but in the end, I’m plumping for Sean Connor at Galway United, who brought some excellent additions into his squad early in the campaign, only to see the likes of Thomas Heary, Bobby Ryan and Anto Flood to name but three, walk out the gates of Terryland never to return because of financial restrictions at the club.
The Moaniest Fans on the MNS facebook Page:
This is a tough one, as almost every club has a few moany fans, but this year’s Roddy, is going to be divided between the Sligo Rovers and Dundalk supporters. The award is mainly for the barrage of (Sligo Rovers, don’t call us Sligo) and (Dundalk, all the referees hate us) correspondents.
We appreciate everyone who takes the time to post on our facebook page, but next season lighten up lads.
Biggest Fall from Grace Award:
I suppose, reluctantly, I have to award the Roddy to Bohemian FC.
As the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said all those years ago: ‘For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.’
It looks as if Bohs’ quest for three league titles in-a-row, has left them staring into a financial abyss. I hope they survive. It wouldn’t be the same without them.
Incidentally, the Save our Bohs campaign are having a fundraising night at Dalymount on Saturday night. Roddy Collins will be attending and is donating a league winners’ medal for auction; fair play to the Rodmeister.
Best Match of the Season:
There are many contenders, but I think the Sligo Rovers versus Bohemians FAI Ford Cup semi final at Dalymount might get the vote because of Sligo's performance on the night.
Shamrock Rovers 3-0 win over the Gypsies was a great day for Hoops supporters too.
(I know Bohs were on the receiving end of both defeats there, but I said some nice things about them in the previous award, and there's only so far a Rovers fan can go!)
I suppose it's hard to beat 36,000 fans at the Aviva Stadium for the cup final, but I'd actually go for St Patrick's Athletic versus Shamrock Rovers at Inchicore; the first time they met this season.
The tight confines of Richmond Park lends itself to a good buzz for the matches and when it's full, it's a great place to be.
Save of the Season:
This one has to go to Ciaran Kelly for his four saves to win the FAI Ford Cup for Sligo Rovers.
After the disappointment of last year’s final, it was a great comeback by the man from County Mayo. His name is now forever written into the history books at Sligo.
Honourable mention goes to Peter Cherrie and Alan Mannus who over the course of 36 games were probably the best net-minders in the League.
Best Result in European Competition:
This has to go to Shamrock Rovers for the win away to Bnei Yehuda in the Europa League. For a side from the Airtricity League to go to Israel and win was a considerable achievement, and the fact that Tommy Stewart’s goal set up a tie with Juventus in the next round was the icing on the cake.
With some other European results leaving League of Ireland clubs downcast, this was a great shot in the arm for the domestic game.
Best Looking Player in the League:
The MNS broadcast coordinator Michelle selected the winner of this one, and after giving it serious consideration for quite some time, she decided that the Roddy should go to Sporting Fingal’s Eamon Zayed.
Incidentally, our editor Brummie Steve was speaking to a Sporting Fingal player recently and described him to his face, as the best ugly player in the league. You can guess which player he was talking to, but I am not telling. The player took the slagging in the good spirit in which it was intended.
Best Referee of the Season:
This is a tough one. It really is a tough one, but it's hard to argue with the choice of the players at the PFAI Awards, where they voted for Alan Kelly. He is one of the rare referees in the league who uses common sense, knows what the advantage rule is, and keeps the yellow and red cards in his pocket until absolutely necessary. So for season 2010, the Roddy goes to Alan Kelly.
Best MNS Pundit of the Season:
This one will go to a public vote. Email [email protected] with your votes and we'll post the result on our facebook page in the next week or so.
Unluckiest Team of the Season:
This one goes to Monaghan United for the heartbreaking manner in which they were denied promotion at the end of the most dramatic extra-time period in play off history. Would Bray have replied if the wall hadn't collapsed? We'll never know, but Mick Cooke’s boys came so close, and should be a team to watch for next season if he can keep his best players.
Manager of the Year:
This is possibly the most difficult category to come up with a winner.
Michael O'Neill: He brought the league title to Shamrock Rovers for the first time in 16 years and took them to an FAI Ford Cup final.
Paul Cook: He Won the FAI Ford Cup and the EA Sports Cup and qualified for Europe with Sligo Rovers.
Pat Devlin: He came into the hotseat with Bray looking absolutely doomed to relegation and turned things around when it looked un-turnaroundable.
Stephen Kenny: He Got Derry promoted at the first time of asking from a hugely tough and competitive first division.
Sean Connor: He lost many of his players from an already small squad, but still managed to keep Galway United in the big time.
In the heel of the hunt, I hope you'll forgive me for plumping for the man who's team won the league title for the first time since I had dark hair - the Roddy goes to Michael O'Neill.
It's been a hugely enjoyable season for the MNS team putting the programme together every week. We've been really heartened by the great response we've got from the viewers, and thank everybody for taking the time to get in touch with us with comments, good and bad.
I can't wait until next March when the race for the 2011 Roddys begins again.
Keep up to date with developments on the Monday Night Soccer facebook page and the MNS website rte.ie/mns.
You can email us at [email protected] all the time, and write to us at MNS, RTÉ Sport, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.